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Arkansas and North Carolina Foundations Converge on Millsaps College to Advance the Arts

by Web on June 15, 2017

Funding from two southeastern foundations is making possible construction of a new visual arts center on the campus of Millsaps College.

In the summer of 2014, Millsaps associate professor of art Sandra Murchison and Arkansas-based artists Robyn and John Horn met for the first time at the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina. They developed an appreciation for each other as artists and professionals working to advance the arts and arts education. Their relationship led to a $2.24 million challenge grant from the Windgate Charitable Foundation to Millsaps in fall 2015. The Windgate Foundation’s challenge grant funded approximately half the cost of a proposed visual arts center at Millsaps, and required the College to raise the remaining funds by December 31, 2016. This is the Foundation’s first grant for an arts center in the state of Mississippi.

“We are deeply grateful to the Windgate Foundation for their bold support of this vitally important project,” said Dr. Robert W. Pearigen, president of Millsaps College. “With space for studio art, art history classes, and an art gallery, this new center will be a transformative place for our students, faculty, and campus at large. It is also a key component of our broader strategic plan, which calls for Millsaps students and the College to more actively engage with the local community. The new center will provide educational opportunities in the arts for the community, particularly our partners in the neighboring Midtown community. We are fortunate that the Windgate Foundation’s vision and generosity has made this possible.”

Noting the factors that led to the awarding of the grant, the Horns said that they “were very impressed with the quality of the art department faculty when we visited the Millsaps campus, and it was reassuring to see the measure of commitment the administration placed on improving the art facilities. The Windgate Foundation is pleased to partner with Millsaps on this much needed project.”

Millsaps succeeded in raising full funding for the visual arts center by the Windgate Foundation’s deadline, thanks to support from several lead donors. One of these was the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust, located in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Known for its generous support of the arts, the Kenan Trust made a $500,000 gift in the summer of 2016, prompting a number of individual supporters, including several Millsaps Trustees, to help close the gap on this $4.5 million project.

“The William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust is proud to partner with the Windgate Foundation and other funders to make this extraordinary campus resource a reality,” said Douglas Zinn, executive director of the Kenan Trust. “The Kenan Trust is a firm believer in the value and transformative power of the arts.”

The visual arts center grant is the Kenan Trust’s second gift to the College. In fall 2014, Millsaps received a $265,000 gift to provide scholarships and research opportunities for students who graduate from Jackson Public Schools and enroll at Millsaps to major in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields.

“The William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust has provided a highly focused boost for Millsaps through their generous scholarship commitment, and now through their most recent gift which has helped make this new visual arts center possible,” says Pearigen. “The Kenan Trust clearly understands the potential of a Millsaps education to transform lives, both for students in STEM fields and in the arts. Having the Kenan Trust in our corner in the past few years has been one of the most important developments in Millsaps’ history.”

The new visual arts center will give Millsaps students and faculty expanded access to arts media and programs, develop a stronger sense of community for artists on campus, and provide educational opportunities and ease of access for the neighboring community to enjoy arts on Millsaps’ campus.

According to Dr. S. Keith Dunn, senior vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College, “The ultimate goal is for this new center to become a center for creative expression in the visual arts, enriched by connections to the campus and larger community.  We believe a new facility that creates this dynamic will greatly impact our ability to attract students interested in studying the visual arts as well as students who are simply inspired and uplifted by the arts.”