2021 MIAL Award Winner The Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters is proud to announce the 2021 award winners for excellence in the arts. Out- of-state judges who are experts in their fields have selected the state’s outstanding artists for works published, performed, or shown in 2020. The annual gala banquet will be held at the Oak Crest Mansion Inn on June 12 in Pass Christian, Mississippi, to honor both 2021 and 2020 winners. For more information, click here.
The 2021 Noel Polk Lifetime Achievement Award winner: Rea Hederman Rea Hederman is recipient of the Noel Polk Lifetime Achievement Award. A native of Jackson, Mississippi, Hederman has been publisher of The New York Review of Books since 1984. A graduate of Murrah High School in Jackson, Hederman earned degrees at the University of Virginia and the University of Missouri. After working as editor for a weekly newspaper in Canton, Mississippi, he served as city and then managing editor of the Clarion-Ledger and became executive editor in 1980. Under his leadership, the paper turned away from its conservative roots to execute “one of the most dramatic turnarounds in American journalism,” according to the Washington Post. Pulitzer Prize—winning author Richard Ford, who, like Hederman, was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi, said of Hederman: “Brought up in 1950s apartheid Jackson, a child of affluence and influence, whose future would’ve been assured and beyond comfortable, he elected instead to take on the responsibilities of his family’s journalistic mini-empire with a profound and controversial commitment not only to civil rights, but to truth-in-journalism on the widest scale.” Hederman received an award from the Robert F. Kennedy Center in Washington for Journalistic Excellence and the Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism from the University of Missouri School of Journalism.
Fiction: Odie Lindsey
Born in San Antonio and currently living in Nashville, Odie Lindsey is the winner in fiction for his first novel, Some Go Home, already named one of “8 Major Debuts of the Summer” by BookPage and a “standout” debut novel by Library Journal. The story is set in the fictional town of Pitchlynn, Mississippi. A Desert Storm veteran, Lindsey explores the effects of the Iraq war on his characters, including female combat veteran Colleen. In an interview Lindsey said that he “wanted to write about war culture. About war as hell brought home.”
Lindsey is the author of the short story collection We Come to Our Senses, included on two “Best of 2016” lists. His stories have appeared in Best American Short Stories, Iowa Review, and Guernica, among others.
Lindsey received an MA from the Center for the Study of Southern Culture and an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. While in Oxford, Mississippi, he worked as a bookseller at Square Books and took a course from Barry Hannah, which he compared to the grueling experience of basic training. He served as Associate Editor of the Mississippi Encyclopedia, which he described as “pivotal” to his novel, Some Go Home. Lindsey is currently Writer-in-Residence at Vanderbilt University’s department of Medicine, Health, and Society.
Nonfiction: Eddie S. Glaude, Jr.
Eddie S. Glaude has won the Nonfiction award for his ninth book, Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own. Born in Moss Point, Mississippi, and raised in Pascagoula, Glaude received his BA degree from Morehouse College, an MA degree in African American studies from Temple University, and an MA and PhD in religion from Princeton University. He is founding member and Senior Fellow of the Jamestown Project.
Glaude began his teaching career at Bowdoin College, where he served as chair of the Department of Religion. He was a visiting scholar at Amherst College and at Harvard University. He holds an honorary doctorate from Colgate University, where his commencement speech was recognized by The New York Times as one of the best of the year.
Upon receiving the key to the city of Moss Point, Glaude said, “This is amazing to be celebrated by my hometown, to have the opportunity for my family to be here. Everywhere I am in the country, I say I’m from Moss Point.”
Glaude currently serves as James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor and chair of African American Studies at Princeton.
Poetry: Catherine Pierce
The poetry award goes to Catherine Pierce for her collection Danger Days. Born in Wilmington, Delaware, Pierce received a BA degree from Susquehanna University, an MFA degree from The Ohio State University, and a PhD from the University of Missouri. She has lived in Starkville, Mississippi, since 2007.
Her second book of poetry, The Girls of Peculiar, won the MIAL Poetry award in 2013. Other award-winning collections are Animals of Habit, Famous Last Words, and The Tornado is the World. She is a two-time Pushcart Prize winner and the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Mississippi Arts Commission. Her works have appeared in Best American Poetry, Ploughshares, and Mississippi Review, among others.
In Danger Days, Pierce confronts the imminent threats of political and ecological collapse as seen through such diverse images as lockdown drills, carcinogens, retreating glaciers, horror movies, and quicksand. In a 2017 interview with Brooklyn Poets, she said, “The current political climate has prompted me to look even more closely at how language can be utilized and distorted—and also wielded by everyone.”
She is the co-director of the creative writing program at Mississippi State University. Her husband is the novelist Michael Kardos, also an MIAL winner. In the Brooklyn Poets interview, Pierce says she is lucky “to land in a state that really champions its artists.” In April of 2021, Pierce was named Mississippi's Poet Laureate.
Youth Literature: Deborah Wiles
Deborah Wiles, from Tucker, Georgia, is the winner in Youth Literature for Kent State, written for students ages 12-18. She has the distinction of being nominated in this category for another book also published in 2020, Night Walk to the Sea. Born in Mobile, Alabama, to a military family stationed in several places around the U.S., Wiles spent every summer with kin in Louin, Mississippi, and considers it her home base. She attended Jones County Junior College in Ellisville, Mississippi, and later received an MFA from Vermont College.
She is the author of several highly acclaimed books, two of which were National Book Award finalists. She wrote a pioneer documentary trilogy about the 1960s, Countdown 1962, Revolution 1964, and Anthem 1969. Among other honors, she was a NAACP Book Award finalist, an E.B. White award winner, a Golden Kite Award winner, and a Jane Addams Peace Award Finalist.
Kent State is a free-verse treatment of the four unarmed college students who were killed by the Ohio National Guard on May 4, 1970, for protesting the Vietnam War. The story is told through points of view of the white students, the black students, a guardsman, and a town resident. Her book provides extensive resources for student research.
Musical Composition (Classical): James S. Sclater
The Classical Music Composition award goes to James S. Sclater for Angels. This is his ninth award from MIAL. Born in Mobile, Alabama, Sclater has been a resident of Clinton, Mississippi, for over fifty years. Sclater earned BA and MM degrees in Composition from the University of Southern Mississippi and a DMA in Composition from the University of Texas at Austin. He began teaching music theory and composition at Mississippi College in 1970 and taught there for forty years. Upon his retirement he was honored by a special concert on the Mississippi College campus.
Sclater often writes the texts for his vocal music, combining a love of music and poetry. From 1971 to 2000 he was a member of the clarinet section of the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra. He played in the chamber duo LYRICAS throughout the Southeast and in London, England. He is a member of American Society of composers, Authors, and Publishers and the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame. A band work, Visions, won the Ostwald Prize in 1974. He plays clarinet in the Brick Street Quartet and the New Bourbon St. Jazz Band.
Among his many commissioned works was his Concerto for Orchestra for the 80th birthday celebration of Eudora Welty. In 1998 he was chosen Mississippi College’s Humanities Professor of the Year. He won a 1994 Emmy nomination for musical score for the Mississippi ETV production The Mad Potter of Biloxi: George E. Ohr.
Musical Composition (Contemporary): Steve Azar
Steve Azar is the winner for Contemporary Music Composition. Born and raised in Greenville, Mississippi, Azar is a singer, songwriter, and record producer. He began his musical career by writing church songs as a child. By age ten, he was taking guitar lessons from Delta blues singer Sonny Boy Nelson, and by age fifteen he was recording demos in Nashville, Tennessee. He describes his sound as “Delta Soul,” a combination of country, blues, funk, and rock n’ roll. According to one reviewer, “Azar has the inflections and rhythms of a young Bob Dylan.”
Azar received a BS degree from Delta State University. He moved to Nashville in 1993 to pursue a recording contract. In 2002 his first hit single, “I Don’t Have to Be Me (‘til Monday),” reached number two on the Hot Country Songs chart and received three Broadcast Music Million-Air awards.
After moving back to Greenville in 2011, he began making significant contributions to Delta culture. In 2013 he started the Mighty Mississippi Music Festival to honor native Mississippi musicians. He serves as a musical mentor and artist-in-residence for Delta Music Institute at Delta State University. He hosts a radio show and podcast “In a Mississippi Minute.”
Azar’s music has led to many honors. Former governor Ronnie Musgrove declared March 13, 2003, “Steve Azar Day.” In 2019 a Country Music marker was erected at Jim’s Café in downtown Greenville to honor him. In 2017 Azar was made a Mississippi Music and Culture Ambassador.
Photography: Andrea Morales
Andrea Morales, a documentary photographer, is the winner in photography for the exhibition Roll Down Like Water, sponsored by the Center for Photographers of Color at the University of Arkansas, which collaborates with artists from diverse backgrounds whose work challenges the monolithic historical narratives within culture and art.
Born in Lima, Peru, Morales grew up in Miami’s Little Havana. She earned a BS degree in journalism from the University of Florida and an MA in visual communication from Ohio University. In 2011, she won Time magazine’s inaugural student-based photojournalism competition. She had an internship with The New York Times and has worked for such newspapers as El Sentinel, the Concord Monitor, and The Washington Post.
The title for Morales’s exhibit, Roll Down Like Water, is a phrase taken from Martin Luther King’s “Mountaintop” speech the day before he was assassinated in Memphis. The exhibit was inspired by the Memphis-based project MLK50: Justice Through Journalism that focuses on everyday life in Memphis five decades after King’s assassination. Morales is the visuals director and primary photographer for the project.
Morales is currently a candidate for an MFA in documentary expression at the Center for the Study of Southern Culture in Oxford, where she is also a producer at the Southern Documentary Project. In her words, her work “attempts to lens the issues of displacement, disruption, and everyday magic”.
Visual Arts: Cathy Hegman
A contemporary figurative artist, Cathy Hegman is the winner in Visual Arts for her show “Pandemic Perceptions.” Originally from Yazoo City, Mississippi, she lives in Holly Bluff and has two full-time studios there. “My art is my life both literally and physically,” she says. She says her enigmatic figures are “the parts of life and painting that simply refuse to be defined.”
Hegman started painting in 1984 while pursuing a BA degree in Interior Design at Mississippi State University. Her paintings have been included in numerous national and international exhibitions in a long list of galleries and museums. She presently serves as vice president of the Mississippi Art Colony. She is a member of several art societies including the Mississippi Watercolor Society. She is the first Mississippi native to receive a Gold Medal from the American Watercolor Society. She is represented in galleries around the world and can be found locally at Fischer Gallery in Jackson, Mississippi.
“Cathy Hegman is from this land, the Mississippi Delta, and her works are stories in paint,” said one reviewer. “Mississippi affects me more than I even know,” Hegman says.