John W. Bateman
I got lucky with my very first novel draft more than a decade ago: I landed an agent.
48 publishers expressed interest in reading it.
48 said “no.”
Half of those publishers no longer exist and that novel remains unpublished.
As the rejections rolled in, they fell into 3 general buckets:
No one agreed on the “no.” My then-agent said that no one offered substantive feedback that pinpointed a needed change. Still, I got rejected. It felt unfair after so much effort. Since that time, my writing has grown. I started writing in other forms, including scripts. Three have won awards of some kind. I’ve published a few short pieces, and have a southern gothic novel pending publication… and I still get rejected. And criticized.
I’m not alone. Neither are you. I recently asked artists to submit their horror stories of rejection and criticism: some funny, some tough medicine, and others simply insane. Take a look at these (names omitted):
Each person remembers the criticism and the rejection. They also have one thing in common: they kept going. Some changed course, some responded. But they kept going.
Another 10 years, I continue to write. I have stopped counting rejections. I now submit as often as possible. With feedback and criticism, I do two things. First, am I having a gut reaction to it? Why? Does that tell me anything? Second, I take the things that land, and leave the rest. To sort out that question, I consider the source: do I respect or trust this creative? Do they read and write? Do they offer something helpful (perhaps a specific point)? Criticism, even rejection, doesn’t always mean “no.” It may mean “not right now.” Maybe the universe needs to gently steer me away from something, someone, or in a direction I didn’t consider. Perhaps it’s like the high school track coach, forcing me to clear a hurdle and prove my dedication (or my story, as the case may be).
The thing about creative work that distinguishes it from many other careers is how inherently intertwined it becomes with our identity. It’s a tough world out there, and we send our “selves” into the world constantly. Criticism and rejection is part of that weird process.
It’s not easy, but one thing is clear: my hurt feelings waste my creative time. Any moment I spend upset over a rejection (or even a perceived rejection) is less time I spend on my craft and what makes me feel in tune.
I’m human, though, and it doesn’t mean I don’t feel. Rather, can I turn that around? As an artist, how do I contribute to an arts community where criticism is helpful, feeds me…. and doesn’t stop me?
Keep going. Contribute to what you want to see.
John W. Bateman
I’ll skip the pun, but I can’t help but look forward to 2018! Even though our fiscal year ends June 30, the start of a new calendar year offers a great point to assess and look ahead. Hopefully, 2018 will offer every creative and art-lover something to enjoy!
Here are a few things to note from the past 5 months and for things to come.
What’s new… administration:
Still in transition… administration:
What’s new… programs:
Programs.... More forthcoming:
Collaboration may become critical for all arts programs in the face of potential funding cuts and austerity at state and federal levels. SAAC is considering its own overlaps so we can strengthen programs and streamline our resources. We are also looking outside of SAAC: unidentified partnership opportunities may exist across organizations. As an umbrella organization with a mission to build and connect the community through art, SAAC is in a unique position to help identify those possibilities and connect potential partners who may benefit from sharing resources and publicity.
Keep the conversation going. Please feel free to comment below.
John W. Bateman
SAAC Executive Director
Support for the arts may never be more critical than when resources dry up like a Mississippi creek in August. Gov. Phil Bryant recently released his 2019 budget recommendations. Did you notice what happened in the arts? The legislature develops its own budget, which means the Governor’s is indeed a “recommendation.” Still, this doesn’t mean we should ignore the discussions.
Take a look at some of these noted cuts:
These are, indeed, simply recommendations. It’s worth noting, however, when assets important to a community may not share the same level of support from the Governor’s Office.
In a time of austerity, how do we respond? How do we ensure the organizations and programs we value have what they need to weather the storm and make it to the next sunny day? What arts assets do you find important in Starkville? Where can we collaborate, fill in gaps, and create valuable partnerships in a time of need? Quite significantly, when and where does private funding come into play, particularly for programs that improve access to art and art-education opportunities?
Fortunately, in the Starkville area, there are a number of nonprofit arts organizations. On this #GivingTuesday, consider who you might support, whether literary arts, visual arts, or the performing arts:
Magnolia Independent Film Festival
MSU College of Art, Architecture, and Design
Starkville Community Theatre
Starkville Public Library
Starkville Strings School
Want to support Starkville Area Arts Council on #GivingTuesday? We have something potentially even more spectacular than memberships: help us compete for matching funds in the Newman’s Own Giving Challenge, by donating here.
Where would we use these #GivingTuesday funds? Public art. Art education programs. Murals. Workshops. Under 40 art shows. Artist awards. Help us make it happen. If not SAAC, then one of our partner organizations above. Let's show 'em what we've got.
For Immediate Release
STARKVILLE, MS -
Mark Wood, owner of Chalet Arts in Starkville, MS, is the 2017 recipient of the Award of Excellence in the Arts, given by Starkville Area Arts Council. This award, nominated by SAAC board members and not given every year, goes to the individual, group, or organization who has contributed the most to promote and build the arts in the Starkville area.
“Well-deserved and long overdue,” says SAAC Executive Director John W. Bateman. “I don’t think the general consumer is aware of how much help and thought Mark gives to artists... without any recognition. He truly cares about helping highlight the tremendous talent that exists in Starkville.” Past Board President Jon Turner says: "We are very excited to honor Mark in this way. I can't say enough about the support he has provided SAAC over the years. He is a perfect example of how much Starkville cares for its arts community."
Several local artists shared their input, as well. Walter Diehl, photographer (and current SAAC Board President) shared this: “I know firsthand of Mark’s enormous generosity when it comes to working with artists and their artwork. I appreciate Mark’s careful critique as well as his gifted eye in helping to make my photographs stand out. Whatever success that I have had in photography owes in part to my productive and positive interactions with Mark.” Joe MacGown noted, unequivocally, that Mark “has single handedly done more to promote the arts in the Golden Triangle region than anyone.”
Artist Laurie Burton (former SAAC Board President) noted that, across the board, artists who have worked with Mark find him helpful, generous, and enthusiastic. He often gives supplies and services to art students and artists at reduced or no charge: too many discounts to count. Burton described Mark’s thoughtful and sound advice when discussing presentation, printing, or framing. His critical and positive feedback motivates artists to excel and he is often thought of as the artist’s biggest supporter. Mark Wood’s relationship with art students and local artists goes beyond his bottom line and is an excellent example of a true supporter of the arts.
Thank you, Mark Wood!
SAAC Communications Intern
Have you ever wondered about the exclusivity of some art? How do people with disabilities engage in performance arts? When is the last time you watched someone with Down Syndrome or paralysis dance? The Academy of Competitive and Performing Arts in Starkville (ACPA) is trying to break that boundary. Its “Let’s All Dance Class” is offered to children with various disabilities. This class brings awareness to disabilities through the arts.
Dance can seem restrictive if you don’t have the “right” body, mindset, etc., but ACPA is fighting that social standard. Arts shouldn’t be limited to a select few, but can and should be enjoyed by all.
Kaitlyn May, Educational Psychology PhD candidate at the University of Alabama, has worked with children for two years and found that dance can have a dramatic, positive impact on individuals with disabilities. Kaitlyn shared her experience with us, both over the telephone and email.
What struggles do you face in teaching the arts with these students?
Individualizing instruction to cater the needs of each student is difficult in any classroom, but the difficulty is heightened in a classroom like Let’s All Dance where students show immense diversity in physical and cognitive abilities. I was fortunate to have the support of multiple faculty members in the Counseling, Educational Psychology, and Foundations department at MSU.
What are some of the benefits you’ve seen your students gain?
These really give me so much excitement for the development of programs like Let’s All Dance! My students participate in something they had never experienced. For both parents and students, it was a “normal” childhood experience in the midst of a week crammed with school, appointments, and physical therapy.
Great, specific things happen, too! One predominantly nonverbal student began speaking the names for movements as she did them. I did associated words with movements as I taught, and it was wonderful to see that incidental acquisition of vocabulary.
Another child began my class with a walker. Her mother asked that we challenge her daughter to rely less on the walker and more on her canes. She continually progressed, transitioning from the walker, to two canes, to one cane, and eventually to holding the hand of a teacher. One day in class she dropped her canes and continued running, unassisted. Everyone in the class exploded in excitement!
Change happened even outside the classroom. In a community as small as Starkville, you often run into the same people; children I taught at church on Sundays would often see me teaching Let’s All Dance when they came to ACPA for their own classes. Eventually, on Sundays, a few kids began asking questions about the Let’s All Dance program. These conversations slowly transformed their perception of visible handicaps, what it means to be able-bodied, and what an individual with any impairment is capable of. Afterwards, I saw them take initiative to include and assist other children with special needs in our church class. They asked questions, adjusted their perceptions, and corrected their actions. This is where I think the grown-ups need to take notes:children asked bold questions and entirely adjusted their mindset accordingly!
It’s great that you are helping spread the arts to EVERYONE, arts shouldn’t be exclusive. Do you feel the community really utilizes it?
Unfortunately, no. One thing voiced most often by my Let’s All Dance parents is a lack of opportunities for children with special needs. This isn’t unique to Starkville: I’ve heard similar feedback from families that I worked with in Houston, Texas. Generally, there is a lack of extracurricular opportunities for children with special needs. The arts, in particular, provide a means of expression and empowerment. All children need those two things, but they are particularly rare and powerful for children with special needs who often feel repeatedly judged, put-down, or dependent on others. I hope to see more arts programs opened to children with special needs and further growth of extracurricular opportunities to this segment of society overall.
How do you think dance has transformed some of your students into students of the arts?
One of my favorite quotes about the arts is “the greatness of art is not to find what is common, but what is unique.” My students in Let’s All Dance embodied that. Dance gave them a means to use their individualities for greatness. For example, one student with spina bifida and minimal movement in her legs would find the most intriguing ways of moving her body. She constantly had me doing double-takes! I found myself trying to employ this idea while choreographing for my general education classes, trying to dissolve my established ideas of how the body moves in favor of novel motions or movement in less-used portions of the body. In that sense, these students embody the arts! To me, this is what art is about: challenging your audience’s views and ideas, being able to bend things that most people see as a straight line.
Do you feel that dance has really let these kids express themselves in ways that people wouldn’t expect children with disabilities to?
Yes. This is another problem I see in us grown-ups: sometimes our preconceived notions limit the kids we interact with. If we expect kids to “wow” us and provide them the environment, encouragement, support, and resources to excel, then they will outstand us with their accomplishments. Let’s All Dance is a testament to the need for a change in societal perception of individuals with disabilities. We all have something to offer this world and individuals with disabilities are no exception.
What advice could you give to parents out there who have children with disabilities but want them to partake in dance, or any form of the arts for that matter?
Make members of your community with teachable skills, like dance, aware of the lack of opportunities for children with special needs. Most people are unaware of the challenges and lack of opportunities individuals with special needs face until someone in their direct circle faces these challenges. Start that dialogue with those around you who are not a part of the special needs community. My hope is that more performing arts programs for children with special needs will develop.
Arts truly offers something for everyone, regardless of ability. Want to help SAAC connect and build a creative community through the arts?
Contact us. Let us know what ideas you have.
Interested in Let’s All Dance? Contact ACPA here. They’d love to hear from you.
John W. Bateman
Poets may not make a lot of money. But they make YOU money.
If that sounds absurd, keep reading and prove me wrong.
Most people can agree with the idea that, if people have something to do, they are more willing to visit (or stay in) a specific place. If we bring and keep people in a town, they will spend money. An arts community helps build a sense of place that drives attraction. It drives a social life. That, in turn, will bring people more predictably than a baseball-field-in-a-cornfield dream.
Art isn’t “just a hobby.” It’s a drive to create.
An arts community isn't just having a movie theatre: it’s having a community where movies are made.
Does that get your attention?
Let’s connect the arts with a business impact. Here are some very real numbers:
Do you know what these are?
Those Cotton District Arts Festival numbers? That reflects one day of art sales. Importantly, they do NOT include amounts (or tax revenue) from hotels, restaurants, and other shopping in Starkville on that same weekend.
Let’s look at a “lottery ticket” example: the NYC Highline that extends from the Meatpacking District to 34th Street. This abandoned, elevated rail, now park and public art space, was hotly contested. It was an eyesore that many wanted torn down. Yet, advocates fought to keep it as a public park with public art located along the route.
The impact? If you were lucky enough to own real estate along some sections, you could have seen a 50% increase in value in your property in one year. One of the first estimates for the future tax revenue and economic impact to NYC over 20 years was $250 million. That prediction was increased to $900 million. Almost $1 billion in economic impact from something many people hated and wanted torn down. It’s now a major destination point. It gives a sense of place and brings people into the area.
THAT is how art means business. That is how poets (sculptors, painters, musicians, performers, etc.) make you money: they give a sense of place that drives attraction. They create something for a community to share and enjoy. They bring and keep people together who directly contribute to the economy of that place. Give people something to do, and they stay. When people stay, they spend money.
Art means business. It's not as indirect as one might think.
Why is this relevant? SAAC’s mission is to build a strong, creative, connected community through the arts. There are many opportunities, whether ongoing current programs or projects in the works, where SAAC is striving to build a community through arts of all types.
Let’s use art to build a community that creates a sense of place... to bring people... to bring business.
Help us build it, for you.
To learn about ways you can help SAAC, contact us.
John W. Bateman
How great is art, if no one ever sees it?
Art doesn’t always belong in a museum, above a couch (or “divan,” as my grandmother called it), or behind closed doors. It’s why cities often drop sculptures in parks. Plaza entrances to skyscrapers or subway stations may show off instagram-worthy moments for you and your best friends on holiday.
Ever see a blank wall and wish it had a mural? You aren’t alone. A lot of communities invest in public art. Why? It’s free and accessible to everyone: no dress code required. Consider how public art can create community: from the buffalo statues in, well, Buffalo, and the Cow Parade in any of these cities to Cloud Gate in Chicago. Displayed, snapchatted, hashtagged, and posted: public art is often a way people show they’ve been there. Joined the community. Taken part in something. They arguably contribute to a sense of place.
It’s not just limited to a concept of home turf. It’s also been argued that public art can revitalize communities, as this excerpt outlines, by promoting public interaction, increasing civic participation, and engaging youth.
All of these arguments sound great on paper, and probably make sense in a selfie culture where good photo ops are quickly posted on Facebook and Instagram. But what really matters, perhaps, is showing how strong public art can be.
For example, take a look at these murals in Asheville.
Or this 125-foot-tall mural in Philly.
Have you seen any of these in Atlanta?
Even Vicksburg took a flood wall and turned it into an art project. Columbus and West Point have murals... What could we do?
John W. Bateman
Have you ever wondered what a residency program is? According to the Alliance of Artist Communities, there are more than 500 active residency programs in the United States alone. For more than a century, residencies have been an integral part of artist communities in the U.S., particularly as organizations like The MacDowell Colony and Yaddo Corporation helped lead the way and foster environments that, between just the 2 of them, has fueled Pulitzer Prizes, MacArthur Fellowships, a Nobel Prize, and a vast array of works, honors, and awards. Although those are two of the oldest programs in the country, they are far from the only ones.
Residencies can be quite extensive and significant, like the seven-month Fellowships at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Others can be short-term opportunities like two-week opportunities at the Vermont Studio Center, or the Yale Writers’ Conference every June. No residency is alike: some involve workshops and community service requirements, while others simply require artist focus and output. Some are funded, others aren’t. These different experiences offer a tremendous opportunity for emerging and established artists of all genre and media to build their craft and share it with the community.
Did you know there’s one down the road, right in our backyard at the Noxubee Wildlife Refuge?
The Artist-in-Residence at the Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge, created in 2013, was the first of its kind in the state. Artists who’ve participated in this 2-4 week program at the Refuge have included locals, as well as others from California, New York… even The Netherlands. Part of the draw for artists is the opportunity to learn about the wildlife and culture of Northeast Mississippi.
The benefit isn’t limited to the artist’s own curiosity. Lori Neuenfeldt, Gallery Director at Mississippi State University, seen the program shape the artist’s style and subject matter, such as Caetlynn Booth, who continues to reference the cypress swamps in her paintings. Lori also relayed another benefit from exposure that the Noxubee Residency provides: “I’ve had artists comment on how much they love being here and how surprised they are. Some even mention how different Mississippi is from their preconceived ideas.” The impact extends beyond the artist’s individual experience, whether by their sharing of diverse stories and culture that make up Mississippi’s gothic fabric, or carrying their experience back to their own communities.
In other words, the Noxubee Residency helps influence both art and the outside perception of life in Mississippi.
The Noxubee Refuge also benefits. Steve Reagan, Project Leader at the Noxubee Wildlife Refuge, describes how the Artist-in-Residence provides an alternative perspective on wildlife, the refuge, and the refuge system. Although staff approach their work from a scientific view, the artists approach the Refuge with an entirely different perspective and communicate that with the public in a very different way than trained scientists. He is amazed that, “although the artists connect the dots much differently, we end up at the same destination in regards to the importance and heart of the Refuge, its wildlife, and habitats.” With the help of artists, Steve notes “we can continue to show the public why wild spaces are an important part of our American heritage.”
“But how does the community benefit?”
It’s an important question, so I’m glad you asked! Residency programs create local access. It’s not simply about outside exposure or helping artists. For patrons and community members, particularly those unable to travel widely for the sake of art, the Noxubee Residency creates opportunities for the public to meet new artists, experience different works, and see perspectives they might not ever gain. For instance, the Noxubee Residency requires 2 public presentations by each resident artist.
Much of the programming for the Noxubee Program takes place on location at the Refuge. However, this October, SAAC, MSU, and Friends of the Noxubee Refuge are bringing the summer 2017 Artist-in-Residence to downtown Starkville.
Witness the influence of the Refuge and the residency on the arts community here. For free. On October 20, in the basement at 929 Coffee House in downtown Starkville at 6 p.m., Artist-in-Residence Gillian J. Furniss will share about her work and experience at the Refuge. Her short presentation will be followed by a brief Q&A. Did I mention that the event is FREE?
Bring questions. Be curious.
Interested in the Artist-in-Residence program? Take a look here. Applications are accepted year round.
John W. Bateman
I’d heard of Divian, before I met her, through a mutual high school friend. When I first met this astounding, creative, wearing a black wide-brimmed hat and large sunglasses at Nine-twenty Nine, I knew we had to talk about her work. You may know her father, Dr. Douglas Conner, who was the first African-American physician in Oktibbeha County and, at one time, the only medical provider for the black community. Divian is a tremendous talent in her own right. Here’s a bit of our recent conversation about her art, the creative process, and life in Starkville.
You told me when we first met that you are putting together a fine arts exhibit. What is that going to be? There are two things I want to do: one is an exhibit of children. The other is a “Faces of Starkville.” Show real people. The nitty gritty.
I’d love to see a Faces of Starkville exhibit. What do you think the arts community needs?
More shows and exhibits. I want to see more art of all types. Music. Everything. Work different from mine. I encourage my kids to try new things, whether food or activities. Step outside the box. Have fun - we have murder mystery dinner parties and you have to come in costume. I want my children to be more accepting of diversity, so I start with food. I figure if they start by being open to new foods, then they’ll be open to people who are different from them.
Do you have any advice for a young artist who is starting out? You define you. Don’t allow someone else to define you. Their likes and dislikes are not yours. Do what makes you happy. I think people want to change who they are, because they think that’s gonna make them successful. Really, success is about being true and consistent to who you are.
If you’d like to see more of Divian’s work, you can find her on Instagram, or online here or even here… (meanwhile, I’ll be working on an invitation to these murder mystery dinners).
What if people stayed in Oktibbeha County an extra day for home football games?
What if people made extended trips here, year round?
What if... the Starkville area became an arts destination like Asheville, Austin, Santa Fe, or Marfa?
What if... people planned for the Cotton District Arts Festival the way they plan for Jazz Fest or the Helena Blues Festival?
What if... young artists stayed, because the arts community offered exposure that built their craft?
What if... world-renowned artists relocated or spent time here because of the cultural opportunities that Starkville offered?
What if national Science, Technology, Engineering & Math programs looked to the Arts here in Starkville for ways to spark imagination and engage creative thinking and design?
What if... the arts were accessible to everyone, regardless of their background?
What if... Starkville offered free outdoor movie nights for families?
What if… North Mississippi had a contemporary museum of art and culture in Starkville?
What if... year-round art classes were available for all ages and skill levels?
What if... blues?
What if… ballet?
What if… fringe market?
What if… gospel?
What if… pottery?
What if… sculpture?
No matter who you are, what your background, we all want something to inspire and entertain. Something to push us to dream “what’s next.” To connect us outside of a “like” on Facebook. Something to do with (or, in some cases, without) our families every weekend.
What if the arts in Starkville offered something for you?
What would it be?
What’s your “what if”?
Let us know in the comments below.
Join us to make it happen.