More than 100 leaders from the Deep South are expected to attend “The Power of a Beautiful Place,” the first-annual Quality of Life Summit presented by the Area Development Partnership (ADP) at Lake Terrace Convention Center in Hattiesburg. Slated for May 4-5, the late Monday/all day Tuesday event features a roster of eight distinguished speakers who have been recognized nationally as major forces in enhancing the quality of life in their cities. They will provide insight into some of the most visionary and forward-thinking cultural quality-of-life initiatives reshaping America.
The $125 two-day pass includes keynote presentations, access to a sculpture exhibition featuring the works of American master sculptor Charles Cropper Parks, breakout presentations and question-and-answer sessions. Mississippi mayors, state lawmakers and presidents of county boards of supervisors are granted free admission with pre-registration. Municipal elected officials will receive two CMO elective credits from the Mississippi Municipal League, an event sponsor, for attending the event.
BancorpSouth, Camellia Home Health & Hospice, Courtyard by Marriott, Fine Arts Institute of Mississippi, Hattiesburg Convention Commission, Mississippi Economic Council and William Carey University (WCU) are also event sponsors.
“This is our third quality of life initiative for the Greater Hattiesburg Area,” said Jack Kyle, director of cultural development for the ADP, who was the mastermind behind the international exhibitions that were brought to Mississippi in 1996 (Palaces of St. Petersburg), 1998 (Splendors of Versailles), 2001 (Majesty of Spain) and 2004 (Glory of Baroque Dresden) through the Mississippi Commission for International Cultural Exchange.
The Festival of Swans, which resulted in 63 swan sculptures on display in Hattiesburg, many painted by local artists such as Kym Garraway, was the ADP’s first quality of life initiative. Ancillary projects included a black-tie Swan Ball and Swanmania, a reading program with swan-themed books developed in collaboration with WCU and the University of Southern Mississippi (USM). Also important, the initiative elicited the involvement of several arts and cultural organizations, such as the South Mississippi Art Association, Pine Belt Quilters, and Camaraderie Photography Club, with a common goal of enhancing the arts for the Greater Hattiesburg Area.
PineBelt in Bloom represented the ADP’s second quality of life initiative, crafted with input from local horticulturalists and landscape architects. The Streets of Gold campaign involved the planting of an abundance of ginkgo trees, whose leaves turn a brilliant gold every fall. “We wanted to develop a parallel with ginkgo trees and gold leaves and Hattiesburg to what cherry trees and blossoms have meant to cities like Macon, Ga., and Washington, D.C.,” said Kyle. The ADP also teamed up with the Hattiesburg Area Daylily Society, one of the nation’s largest of its kind, to promote the planting of daylilies in highly visible public areas, from medians on Hardy Street, to neighborhood entrances, to landscape centerpieces on the campuses of USM and WCU. The ADP is supporting the society’s efforts to become the second designated Official Daylily City in America.
Last year, to reflect the importance the ADP has placed on cultural development and enhancing the quality of life for Hattiesburg-area residents, ADP president Angie Godwin, PhD, moved cultural development to a full division of the ADP, alongside economic development, chamber of commerce and community development divisions. For the first-annual quality of life summit, Godwin developed the theme, “The Power of a Beautiful Place,” and collaborated with Kyle on the speaker line-up.
“The quality of life in a place and its activities truly create energy among people that live in the community, and it brings all the assets and treasures of the community into the limelight,” said Godwin. “Our job is to try to feed the strengths and starve the weaknesses of a community, empowering every citizen to be part of the solution. A beautiful place does have a tremendous power that we really cannot explain.”
Kyle said he and Godwin sought speakers who represented outstanding examples of organizations that support cultural development and quality of life, ranging from architects and landscape architects to cultural institutions and downtown redevelopments to historic preservation and the development of major cultural events, such as Spoleto Festival USA, one of the nation’s top cultural festivals.
“Our first goal was to enlist Charleston (S.C.) Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. to share how placing emphasis on developing the world-class festival, historic preservation efforts and Charleston’s unique culture and history have made his city one of the leading travel destinations and most attractive places to live in the U.S.,” said Kyle.
Bob Wilson, executive director of the Mississippi Main Street Program, said “everything in the economic and community development arena is about quality of life, from business recruiting to design to the marketable image of the community. This conference is so relevant to what we do. Of course, the cost to register and attend could be justified just to get a chance to hear Mayor Joe Riley.”
The brief May 4 agenda begins at 4 p.m., with the opening keynote speech from Riley. Kicking off the May 5 day-long event at 8 a.m. is Ed Curtin, executive director of the Columbus (Ind.) Redevelopment Commission, whose city saw a growth spurt in the mid-1900s after a local businessman offered to fund blueprints for buildings designed by a select list of architects. As a result, six of those buildings constructed between 1942 and 1965 have been designated National Historic Landmark status.
Larry Albert, AIA, of Albert & Associates in Hattiesburg, who is well-known nationwide for architectural and historic preservation projects, will participate in the first breakout session, along with John Bullard, executive director of the New Orleans Museum of Art since 1973, who will discuss “The Besthoff Sculpture Garden: How it Developed and Survived Katrina.”
Luncheon keynote speaker Jed Morse, acting chief curator of the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, will focus on this new world-class cultural attraction designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano and sculpture garden designed by noted landscape architect Peter Walker, who also designed Alice Walton’s grounds at her new art museum in Bentonville, Ark.
Afternoon breakout sessions include Edward Blake of The Landscape Studio in Hattiesburg. The master designer of the Crosby Arboretum in Picayune, Blake will discuss “transforming ordinary into extraordinary,” while Eve Loeb, director of development of the revered Alabama Shakespeare Festival, will talk about “Red Blount and the Transformative Power of Artistic Philanthropy on Community.”
Penny Lewandowski, director of entrepreneurship development for The Edward Lowe Foundation in Cassopolis, Mich., will close the afternoon program discussing “The Big Rock Valley Model: How Nature and Sense of Place Drive Innovation and Entrepreneurship.”
The closing reception from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. will coincide with the ADP’s monthly Business after Hours networking event.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at Lynne.Jeter@gmail.com.