I have lived in Hattiesburg since 2001. Before moving to Hattiesburg, I was familiar with the town as the setting for The University of Southern Mississippi.
There were many summers of venturing down to USM (from my hometown of Meridian) for week-long music camps.
You may not know that I played the violin from the age of four until about fourteen. After 8th grade I switched from violin to string bass.
My introduction to Hattiesburg was essentially knowing that USM was a school that embraces music and fine arts. In fact, my older brother, upon graduating high school decided to come to Southern Miss to pursue a degree in theater.
I made the similar decision to move to Hattiesburg and attend USM with big dreams of being a music major.
Life has a funny way of working out and things may have gone a little differently, but what I knew about Hattiesburg then still holds to be true today.
In the most recent years, I've compared Hattiesburg to being "The Austin Texas of Mississippi." Some may disagree, but my correlation is simply drawn from Hattiesburg being a fairly progressive town that happens to be stuck in a very conservative state.
LET'S TALK MURALS
Recently we've been seeing amazing murals going up around town, with the most recent being "Suffrage" by Heidi Pitre, which honors the passage of the 19th Amendment. Before that it was Spence Townsend's "Let's Go" mural that now adorns the Sunflower on Hardy Street.
I love seeing murals. The sides of buildings make for great canvases to showcase artwork that can uplift a community.
Downtown Hattiesburg and The Avenues are really showing out with murals that pop.
ART AT EVERY TURN
Art is all around us. There is artistic form in every neighborhood, and it doesn't go unnoticed.
I am one to enjoy a well-groomed yard and appreciate the work that goes into it. I once lived across the street from a gentleman who kept his yard immaculate.
Landscaping is a beautiful artform and there are numerous places in Hattiesburg where the grounds are kept so tidy that they draw acclaim.
Hattiesburg is home to so many great sculptures. Downtown Hattiesburg has a slew that evoke praise from many artists who call this region home. Look around Town Square Park, lately? The Hattiesburg Alliance for Public Art has really been a catalyst in pushing for a wide array of art displays in this town.
TO THE TOP!!!
The University of Southern Mississippi is very much a school that embraces the arts. Music, dance, sculpture, drawing, painting, graphic design, architecture, creative writing, video production, and recording arts are all programs that draw my attention at USM. The school of music at USM is exceptional and has helped produce some of the most talented musicians I've ever met. When the jazz department is having their end of the year juries (final exams where the students perform and are graded), usually hosted at The Thirsty Hippo, I always try to make it. Another department at USM that catches my eye is the school of 3D art and design (think sculptures). I've become friends with a few graduates and faculty and have seen a few iron pours from a safe distance. I am always curious to see what forms the students have come up with and to see how they've turned out.
ART MAKES ART MAKES ART
Living in Hattiesburg you are sure to make friends with many artist types. One of my talented artist friends keeps pushing the bar and encourages anyone and everyone to be creative and make art.
Abigail Lenz Allen, who has helped create many different avenues for art (like Hattiesburlesque and smART Space) in Hattiesburg, is quoted as saying, "art makes art makes art." From scantily clad dance recitals for adults to arts and craft tutorials for children, creativity in this town is contagious.
MAKE IT HAPPEN!
One of the more recent places for artists to commune is the Maker Space Hattiesburg. Maker spaces are popping up all over the country and giving people an outlet to create. Whit Sanguinetti and Makenzie Crampton are helping to drive this force locally with plans to provide a space for people to learn crafting. With all the efforts in this town to drive creativity and provide spaces for art, I can't help but gain a sense of pride. I am proud to live in such an art-centric place that helps curate and inspire creativity.
I would encourage anyone and everyone to get involved in the art scene in Hattiesburg and do whatever you can to keep Hattiesburg a thriving community for art.
Massengale is a robust personality who conveys emotion on an interstellar level through rhyme and rhythm.