(The following is a press release submitted to WDAM7. Note of disclosure: Ivey Swan is the daughter of retired WDAM7 news director and anchor Randy Swan.)
As a young child growing up in Hattiesburg, Ivey Swan participated in every area of the arts as a dancer, singer and visual arts enthusiast. The Ole Miss graduate has since been sharing her passion for the arts by encouraging children to express their feelings in creative ways such as art, painting, dance and music.
"When I was in the 10th grade (2009), I created Artie. I loved to sketch and draw, and it occurred to me that I could help other children have a connection to the arts through this little character. I wanted to make a difference in my community, and because I have always loved the arts this seemed to be the perfect icon to create. I got out my sketch pad and Artie was born," said Swan.
Artie is a paintbrush figure who paints, sings, dances, plays musical instruments and loves all forms of art! He loves to be a part of his community and his state and attend as many art related events as possible. He especially loves children's events!
"During my 11th grade year (2010), I took Artie to meet Dr. Jay Dean who is the creator of Festival South. Festival South is a multi-genre music and arts festival held for two weeks each June in my home town of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. I asked Dr. Dean to consider allowing Artie to be introduced through Festival South as part of the festival's children's events. He graciously agreed and Artie made his debut," said Swan.
In 2013, over 2,000 children and parents participated in Artie events during Festival South. In 2014, Artie partnered with the Hattiesburg Arts Council to begin "The Artie Club" for children ages 5-12. The club is a great way for children to participate in art related events. It gives children something to belong to that is positive, and encourages constructive activities to get imaginations and creative thoughts flowing.
Artie has visited schools and classrooms sharing the importance of the arts in education – reaching children of all ages including those with special needs. Artie, a true ambassador for the arts, continues to make an impact statewide.
When tornados swept through the Lamar County area in December 2014 leaving behind a path of destruction and devastation, Swan was pressed into using her arts advocacy in a different way. She visited the Sumrall Day Care Center that was displaced by the tornado and was able to use the healing and therapeutic qualities of the arts to help Lamar County's youngest storm victims overcome their fears.
Swan explained, "Children who have experienced disasters, even just through graphic media coverage, may not be able to talk about it or express the feelings disaster triggers in them. The arts can help ease the pain of trauma."
Using coloring books which featured "Artie," Swan was able to foster the talents of these budding artists and ease their minds about a disaster and fears which they could not possibly understand.
Swan said books are not only relaxing and can relieve stress, but they also help spark the imagination and creative mind. She introduced The Little Free Library to Forrest General Hospital as a way to help the hospital fulfill part of its We C.A.R.E mission while providing comfort to visitors and families. The Little Free Library, which showcases an image of Artie, is a "take a book, return a book" gathering place where Forrest General patients and visitors can share their favorite literature and stories. The Little Free Library is a box full of book where anyone may stop by and pick up a book (or two) and bring back another book to share. The project is sponsored by the Hattiesburg Arts Council, Festival South and the Hattiesburg Alliance for Public Art.
Swan hopes that Artie will not only inspire and bring hope to patients and visitors at Forrest General but also high school students, who Swan believes are the future of a creative economy in Mississippi and the nation. Swan is currently leading an effort called Speak Up, Hattiesburg, a community-built initiative to save the rich tradition of the arts at Hattiesburg High School. She has mentored countless students, spreading a vibrant message about the arts and how students can use their talents to make a difference in the lives of others.
"The arts can help teens get involved in a positive activity and keep them from looking for acceptance from the wrong type of groups. The arts can provide a feeling of belonging through sharing similar interests with others," said Swan. "It is important to advocate for access and equity for children to receive a complete education that includes the arts."
Hoping to become the first cabinet-level National Secretary of the Arts, Swan prepares to take the stage this June representing The Pine Belt as Miss Leaf River Valley in the Miss Mississippi Pageant in Vicksburg. She and Artie continue to be exceptional role models for the arts. Swan hopes to take her platform and message beyond live events and to eventually see Artie animated as a web based and public broadcast series.