Outdoor art sculptures being installed around Hattiesburg

Outdoor art sculptures being installed around Hattiesburg

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Hattiesburg is seeing several pieces of outdoor public art being installed at various locations throughout the city. These pieces of art are mostly from local artist that are displaying their work in order to inspire and enrich the community.

The work is the result of a new art organization, The Hattiesburg Alliance for Public Art (HAPA) which was formed in 2014 in memory of local arts patron Mary Dixon Montague, is downtown this week working to install seven large outdoor sculptures. Six of the works were selected in a national competition and will remain on display for one year. One, by local sculptor James Davis, has been purchased for permanent installation at Town Square Park.

Becky Montague, a co-founder and president of the organization, said its mission is to purchase and place art in the heart of town and to raise awareness of the works of art already in the area. "It's also important to us to support and promote our local artists," Montague said, "so in addition to the national competition and this first purchase, we've commissioned local sculptor Jennifer Torres to create a work for us." Torres, a professor of art at the University of Southern Mississippi, plans to share the commissioning and creative process with the community. Updates to the work in development will be shared on HAPA's website and facebook page.

Other area artists whose work will be featured include Taylor Barnett and Harold "Skip" Van Houten. Barnett's "The Greatest Sum" will be at Town Square Park and Van Houten, who was a long-time art professor at USM, exhibits his narrative and humorous piece "Three Ton One Ton" at the Historic Train Depot. Other participating artists include Michael Dillon of Milton, Georgia; Isaac Duncan III of Chattanooga, Tennessee; Ray Katz of Pontiac, Michigan; and Nathan Pierce of Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

Montague said the group has focused its first efforts downtown in order to create an art destination, adding "We've tried to keep all the sculptures within a reasonable walking distance, with three at Town Square Park, some at the train depot, and others on Main Street in the front lawns of the Forrest County Courthouse and the Main Street fire station."

In addition to the inaugural annual sculpture competition, which received over forty applicants from twelve states, HAPA also co-hosted last month's "Little Free Library" collaboration with the Hattiesburg Arts Council. HAPA board member and arts council executive director Rebekah Stark Johnson encourages residents to be on the lookout for some of the thirty little libraries being placed around town. "Within this sculpture walking tour, there are libraries at the park, the train depot, and City Hall, among others," she said.

HAPA's sculpture and library projects were funded by a gift in the late Mrs. Montague's memory. Still to come is a mural initiative for downtown and Hardy Street. Following that, the group will invite the public's participation with a membership drive. HAPA is affiliated with the Hattiesburg Tourism Commission, a non-profit entity, and administered by an all-volunteer staff, so contributions are tax-deductible, with 100%of funds applied directly to promoting public art in Hattiesburg. For more information, see www.hattiesburgpublicart.com or email hattiesburgpublicart@gmail.com.