June 7, 2013 10:44:04 AM
Artists from around the state will descend on the Mississippi University for Women campus Saturday to attend the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Awards. The prestigious awards will be presented to eight artists from throughout the state at the Hogarth Center on the MUW campus. The ceremony will be an all-day event with writing award recipients reading their work Saturday afternoon at Poindexter Hall. There will also be a book signing.
MUW president Dr. Jim Borsig said it is an honor to host the event.
"We are delighted to host this distinguished group on our campus," he said. "The accomplishments of those being recognized are known not just in Mississippi but across the country and it is going to be a great event for MUW."
This year's award recipients are: Richard Ford, Joseph Crespino, Catherine Pierce, David Wharton, Lee Renninger, Dr. Steve Rouse and Caroline Herring.
Ford, a Jackson native, is the winner of the Fiction Award for his novel, "Canada." He is a previous winner of the MIAL Fiction Award and also won a Pulitzer Prize for his novel "Independence Day."
Prior winner Crespino won the 2012 MIAL Nonfiction Award for his book, "Strom Thurman's America." Originally from Macon, Crespino currently teaches at Emory University.
Pierce, of Starkville, won the Poetry Award for "The Girls of Peculiar." She currently teaches and co-directs the creative writing program at Mississippi State University.
Wharton won the Photography Award for his book, "Small Town South." Wharton is the Director of Documentary Studies and Assistant Professor of Southern Studies at the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi.
Renninger won the Visual Arts Award for her work, "Botanica." A Gulfport native, Renninger is a self-described ceramic-based installation artist
Rouse, a musician and composer, won the Music Composition-Classical Award for his composition, "Sonata for Violin and Piano." Rouse is a native of Moss Point.
Herring, a prior winner and a Canton native, wins the Music Composition-Contemporary Award for her album, "Camilla."
Dr. Bridget Smith Pieschel, an MUW professor who serves on the board of governors for the organization said it was an honor for the school to serve as host.
"This is wonderful to have the banquet in this part of the state even, but to have it on the MUW (campus) is really an honor for us," she said. "We're thrilled"
Pieschel said that in the 34 years of the ceremony, this year is the first time it has been hosted in Columbus.
"Having all of these people come here from other parts of Mississippi to our campus is exciting to me because I'm proud of our campus and I'm proud of the place where we're having the reading and performances," she said.
The event typically takes palce in larger, more metropolitan areas but Pieschel said by having the event in Columbus, the institute is recognizing artists who may come from more rural parts of the state.
"Mississippi artists and writers and musicians come from all counties in the state. We wanted to bring recognition to those who weren't necessarily from the Jackson area," she said.
In order to be considered for the eight awards, artists have to either be Mississippi natives or have "significant ties" to the area, Pieschel said. The artist also must have had their work published, displayed or performed in the previous year.
MUW alum Patti Carr Black will receive the Noel Polk Lifetime Achievement Award, a fact that Pieschel is especially thrilled about.
"We are so excited the lifetime achievement award is going to someone who is a MUW alum. That's really exciting for us."
Pieschel said MUW students and staffers will handle the entire weekend event from catering to decorations.
Saturday afternoon's poetry reading and musical performances are offered at no cost to the public. They begin at 1 p.m. at Poindexter Auditorium.
Sarah Fowler covers crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch. Follow her on Twitter @FowlerSarah
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