Members from the Artist at Work support staff, Kecli Baker and Scout Eisenburg, traveled for ten days through the Delta making connections and learning about the work of the organizations participating in AAW in the Delta Region. The visits began in Dardanelle, Arkansas with McElroy House and then headed over to Memphis, Tennessee to visit Historic Clayborn Temple. From Memphis it was down Highway 61 to the heart of the Mississippi Delta, Clarksdale to visit with Delta Commons. They then ventured over the Mississippi River to Elaine, Arkansas before heading back down 61 and ending in Utica, Mississippi to visit with Sipp Culture
Photos by: Kelci Baker, AAW
While in Utica, Kelci and Scout visited the Utica Institute Museum to engage with AAW Artist Monica Hill and Utica Institute Museum Director, Jean Green. The museum tour began with a showcase of Utica’s rich history in music with a record selection from the The Utica Jubilee Singers. During the tour, Ms. Green provided the narration, highlighting the contributions of founder William H. Holtzclaw and many others that led to the development of the Utica Normal and Industrial Institute, also known as one of many Little Tuskegees.
As part of extending our southern hospitality, Sipp Culture hosted a gathering with fresh vegetables from the residents’ raised bed garden. We were able to connect over food and story with AAW artists Monica and daniel johnson. Of course, it was the preparation of the meal which opened up the opportunity for rich conversation. Scout, Kelci, daniel, and Brandi chopped onions, prepared roux, diced tomatoes, etc. while reflecting on the nature of building community in the context of arts and cultural organizing. Although we had learned about each other through our work together over Zoom from the previous six months, it was that time laughing and cutting up in the kitchen solidified our partnership.
“My greatest takeaway from this trip is the power and importance of in-person connection. During our visit to Sipp Culture, Carlton Turner said, “you don’t partner with organizations; you partner with people.” I am thankful to have had meaningful time with the creative and brilliant artists and partners that make up the AAW Mississippi Delta Cohort.”
“Getting to go to Utica and spend time with the group from Sipp Culture felt like being welcomed into someone’s home. We shared stories and cooked together, and it was in those times of making fellowship that made me so grateful for the opportunity to know the people there. So much great work is happening at Sipp Culture and throughout Utica, Mississippi.”
ARTISTS AT WORK is structured as a network of partnerships designed to leverage cultural recovery for local community impact. As part of their participation in the program, each AAW artist will be embedded in a social impact initiative in their local community that will benefit from their skills and creative thinking. These initiatives include a wide range of programs and organizations whose work supports healthy communities.