MISSISSIPPI INSTITUTE OF ARTS AND LETTERS AWARD WINNERS for 2023 PANNY MAYFIELD and Tupelo Reads
Each year The Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters honors creative individuals with awards in their specific fields. In addition, the MIAL may recognize Mississippians for lifetime service in Arts and Letters, or for a meritorious program or event in Mississippi which has added significantly to the appreciation of Arts and Letters.
Panny Flautt Mayfield, of Clarksdale, is the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters 2023 Noel Polk Lifetime Achievement Award winner. An award-winning journalist who has photographed and written about blues and gospel music, playwright Tennessee Williams, and Delta life since the 1970s, she has been recognized with more than thirty awards from the Associated Press, the Mississippi Press Association, the Mississippi Film Commission, and the College Public Relations Association of Mississippi. Her photographs have been exhibited in museums across the United States. Her book Live from the Mississippi Delta, published by the University Press of Mississippi in 2017, showcases more than two hundred black-and-white and color photographs documenting music from the region. In 1993 Dr. Vivian Presley, President of Coahoma Community College, and Mayfield submitted and were successful in receiving a grant to inaugurate Clarksdale’s first annual Tennessee Williams Festival, bringing national and international attention to the playwright’s life and work. Mayfield directed, publicized, and documented the event until 2018. She was a reporter and features editor for the Clarksdale Press Register until 2000 and director of public relations at Coahoma Community College before retiring in 2013. Since 2020 she has written the online Dispatch from 415 Court Street, Clarksdale, Mississippi, under the byline Journalist Forever.
Tupelo Reads is the 2023 recipient of a Special Achievement Award. Inaugurated in 2011 as a part of Mayor Jack Reed’s task force on education, Tupelo Reads was designed to make Tupelo a center of literacy and lifelong learning. Directed by a committee of volunteers, Tupelo Reads partners with the Lee County Library, Reeds Gumtree Bookstore, the Boys and Girls Club, and the City of Tupelo. It is funded by the City of Tupelo and private donors. The committee selects a book for the city to read and arranges a guest visit by the author. The author gives a reading/lecture to students at Tupelo High School, and works with individual classes. An art contest is held for senior art students at Tupelo High School and cash prizes are awarded for the art work dealing with themes of the book. A curriculum on the book is developed and taught by committee members to the students at our Boys and Girls Club. A lecture and book signing by the author for the public is held at the Lee County Library. Speakers have included Governor William Winter for Willie Morris’ My Dog Skip; Rick Bragg, Winston Groom, Tom Franklin, Beth Ann Fennelly, Kent Krueger, and this year Jamie Ford from Montana. That cooperation of public and private entities, plus the regional outreach of this program, sets it apart.
Both Panny Mayfield and Tupelo Reads will be recognized on June 3 at the MIAL Awards Banquet in Oxford.