With the addition of a new mural on University Avenue and Oxford’s arts center, the Powerhouse, located there – this semester Oxford Stories is embarking on a small solutions journalism project. Our reporters are starting a community conversation about the possibility of a continued arts emphasis in the University Avenue area.
Kaleigh Hall, 22, began interning at Oxford’s Southside Gallery at 150 Courthouse Square in August. She and her boss, Wil Cook, said an arts district, or area of continued arts emphasis, could be beneficial to Oxford.
Southside Gallery is an art gallery that showcases and promotes work by artists through multiple exhibitions, artist receptions and public events.
Hall is completing a 400-hour unpaid art internship with Southside Gallery and planning for a career in fashion.
She is aware there are many arts-related activities in Oxford, such as the monthly Art Crawl.
“The Double Decker bus takes people through Oxford starting at Southside Gallery, the University Museum, the mural on University Avenue, the Powerhouse, and then there’s another art gallery out near Highland Square,” said Hall.
Every two to four weeks, Southside Gallery hosts an art reception showcasing new artists and their work.
“It’s for people and locals who love art, and it’s free,” she said.”Even for my friends who aren’t into art, I told them to come, and they loved it.
“Last Friday, two artist from New Orleans came – a painter and a photographer, and we put on art receptions. It’s like, wine, cheese, and a bunch of people come. There was probably well over 80 people.”
Hall said she wishes more people were aware of the art events, and she tries to promote them using social media.
She believes putting more of an emphasis on art in Oxford would be worth the time and money, and it’s an opportunity to bring more diversity to Oxford.
“The more the better,” she said. “This would give kids more opportunities to express themselves. It’s another thing to keep people and kids here busy besides sports and stuff.
“Art is an outlet for a lot of people when it comes to dealing with things. There’s art therapy and music therapy, which is also good for people that (have) special needs.”
Hall also approves of the new mural on University Avenue.
“I used to live right off University Avenue,” she said. “That mural is bad a**. We need more art and diversity like that. It brings a cool and colorful aspect to this small, Southern town.”
Cook said the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council has done a good job with arts programming.
“They’re real active and are always having events down there,” he said.”(Wayne Andrews) started the Arts Crawl. He’s done a really good job.”
Cook said some business owners have discussed adding more murals.
“I know people who have an interest in painting a mural somewhere here if (they) could get commission from the city, or you know, some private business even,” Cook said.
He believes Oxford could benefit from an arts district if there were a few more “venues that were dedicated to art.”
“It might help or kind of steer the city in that direction of having an arts district,” Cook said.
Hall said retaining Oxford’s small town charm is important, but so is art.
“I don’t think Oxford needs to change massively, because it is a very small town, and it does hold that, you know, small town atmosphere,” she said. “And people think of Oxford as this very small town. But I think adding, pop of this, pop of that – art is just what we need.”