To begin, we are so pleased, proud, and eager to honor the 2020 Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters awards winners with as much fanfare as is possible this year. Each year MIAL reminds me of just how much talent touches our lives here in Mississippi.
Of course, we’re incredibly disappointed to not be celebrating in person. The coronavirus has had a devastating effect on the arts this year, and since late February events across the state have been cancelled for the benefit of the common good and as a bulwark against viral community spread. The 41st Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters’ annual awards ceremony, originally scheduled for June 2, 2020, was no exception to this spate of cancellations. The decision to cancel the ceremony was an easy one to make, but no less dispiriting.
Through a variety of efforts, however, artists across the state are creating a sense of community cohesion and raising our spirits and morale. Artists and arts organizations are turning cancelled events into digital events, and many of us are socializing at virtual bookstore readings, watching musical performances online, and having “art and coffee” Zoomed (a new word!) in from our museums. Understandably, many online book clubs are meeting and reading more now than ever. Museums and galleries are taking exhibitions online, and arts festivals and events are finding increasingly accessible ways to promote and share the diversity of Mississippi’s arts and letters across the globe.
But while society is figuring out new ways to share and celebrate the arts, the reality remains that artists of all media are being affected in numerous ways. Whether it is through income loss, a decrease in available outlets and audiences, or a loss of access to materials and workspace, our artists are affected. We encourage you to continue supporting the arts in Mississippi by whatever ways are available to you. Artists and writers across the state continue to work and produce, and they deserve our support in addition to our praise.
I look forward to seeing and hearing how artists will respond to and depict this time in which we live. I suspect many responses will rightly reflect the anxiety that we are all experiencing, but I also believe that the art born from this crisis will reflect our courage and our resolve to prevail.
In 2020, we are absolutely not cancelling the arts. And the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters is not cancelling the 2020 banquet. Let’s just call it a postponement, as we are already planning for a combination 41st/42nd awards banquet next June.
Until then, congratulations to all of our incredibly talented 2020 winners, and thank you for representing our state. The arts, perhaps more than ever, create a cultural community, and you help in immeasurable ways to shape the constellation of communities that is Mississippi. We’ll see you in person in 2021.