Art + Exchange Oxford

July 20, 2018

Thursday, July 19 | Oxford, MS... CAPE joined forces with the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council and The University of Mississippi Museum to gather  public input as part of the Art + Exchange Story-Gathering Tour. This research serves as part of Phase 1 of a new program of place-based artist residencies that will fund community-engaged artworks across Mississippi.

 

Participants shared their opinions on the past, present, and future of the community. This input will be utilized in Phase 2 of the residency program, when Mississippi artists will be invited to propose specific project ideas that address narratives raised by the public. Check the events page for upcoming Art + Exchange tour stops.

 

Development and Economic Access

 

"It’s about who has money and who has access and who doesn’t."

 

PAST AND PRESENT

  • Downtown Oxford is growing, but perhaps to quickly

  • Growth provides fiscal stability

  • But while real estate growth offers stability, it also means  exclusivity

  • Increased cost of living / Expensive / Poverty and absence of affordable housing

  • Real estate prices limit lower income residents in town

  • Traffic on game days / Parking is a challenge

  • Over-development is also a challenge 

  • Class division

  • “Growth has been packaged for rich retirees”

  • "It’s about who has money and who has access and who doesn’t."

  • Community Green – “My neighborhood is made from recycled Ole Miss homes”

 

HOPES FOR THE FUTURE

  • Economic integration

  • Smarter growth through smarter planning

  • More affordable housing for the lower/middle class community

  • Food business incubator

 

Public spaces, The University, and the Square

 

“I had a scholarship to the college and still wouldn’t go because of the flag and the fact that they sang Dixie at football games.”

 

PAST AND PRESENT

  • The University is a resource

  • Rowan Oak, Faulkner's historic home

  • Imaginary boundaries – to culture, on the Square, in various spaces

THE SQUARE

  • There’s a specter of a statue on the Square. It’s a symbol of the progress and it’s also a symbol of the troubled past.

  • Square is divided based on socioeconomics

  • “can’t afford most of the [stuff] there”

  • “tourist trap”

  • “like looking at Garden & Gun”

  • “That’s the façade of Oxford. Selling a façade of Oxford.”

  • You visit the Square only when friends are visiting.

  • “No people of color on the square.”

  • “I had a scholarship to the college and still wouldn’t go because of the flag and the fact that they sang Dixie at football games.”

  • Of the monument growing up – “I just didn’t see it. I wasn’t as sensitive to it.”

  • The Square is more integrated at night

 

HOPES FOR THE FUTURE

  • More paths and green spaces

  • More spaces for public art

  • Shoe fixing shop; watch repair

  • Teaching the history of downtown / a change in thought

  • Botanical garden

  • Become more cycling friendly town

  • Opportunity to make Oxford a walking community / more walking groups

  • Lack of opportunity for retail entrepreneurship / need another retail district that people aren’t so emotionally attached to, where people can go, that is more accessible to startup businesses

 

Community Narrative

 

There’s “more than one version of the truth.”

 

PAST AND PRESENT

  • Safety

  • Great food

  • Summer time

  • Preservation

  • Small town but lots to do

  • Quaint beauty, even when chaotic

  • Friendly, forward thinking, diverse

  • We are quick to give back to those in need

  • Great community spirit

  • Short commute

  • Literary legacy and authors residing

  • Be honest about our history. The Civil War statue that says it was a “just and holy cause” against the backdrop of history of lynching. It’s an “open wound that hasn’t had the opportunity to heal.”

  • “Domination of sports"

 

HOPES FOR THE FUTURE

  • Ole Miss national championship

  • Capitalizing on the dreams and creativity of our residents

  • "Would love to collaborate more with the university and city i.e. graphic design classes and potential class assignments."

  • "An opportunity for reckoning with our past and healing it – coming together to face the truth of who we have been and who we want to be. Redemptive forgiveness."

  • There’s “more than one version of the truth”

 

The Arts

 

PAST AND PRESENT

  • Collaborative arts attitude

  • Oxford embraces the arts

  • Dedication to art and literature

  • Cultural oasis (music, art, food)

  • Yoknapatawpha Arts Council / town and gown artistic relationship between town and university

  • Growth of arts in area

 

HOPES FOR THE FUTURE

  • More funding for the arts

  • More commercial art galleries

  • An arts community event that is motivated by the opportunity to collaborate or network and not by the money that it can raise

  • Summer community musical

  • Cooperative artist community i.e. studio space

  • Full integration of the arts (dance, music, theatre, poets, visual, site specific work)

  • Community art spaces and studios, art school

 

Diversity and Equity

 

The challenge of “moving to Oxford as a female and adjusting to deep-rooted gender stereotypes.”

 

PAST AND PRESENT

  • Oxford is multi-cultural

  • A diverse community from all over the country and from different experiences

  • Welcoming to outsiders who want to get involved in community

  • We have socioeconomic divisions

  • Elephant in the room is the K-12 educational achievement gap (largest in state) and its contributing factors

  • Racist past

  • Severe lack of diversity in community involvement, despite a highly diverse town

  • Student and year-round residents not as well connected as they might be

  • Racial divide

  • The challenge of “moving to Oxford as a female and adjusting to deep-rooted gender stereotypes.”

  • Not a black/white binary. Other ethnic and racial diversity.

  • “Don’t pull me out of my group to be in your group.”

  • There's a "desire to look past our ugly history of racial terror, lynchings, and other ugly acts that have occurred in area." 

  • Lack of “density” in different groups that stunts mobility, growth, and progress

 

HOPES FOR THE FUTURE

  • We need to figure out how we can be a part of our individual communities and then come together as a larger community.

  • Integrating the diverse communities

  • "I feel we need to be honest about the heritage of the region: the Confederate statue, and a lynching that occurred a year after it was erected. The University is doing a good job but there’s pushback."

  • Work to do in integrating the diverse communities (White, Hispanic, Black, Middle Eastern, Asian, Indian, and others)

  • More focus on the older population – conservative side

  • Resources (knowledge) provided by the elderly

  • More opportunities for physically challenged

  • An international grocery

 

Cover stories for the future:

 

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