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Andrew Wyeth: Close Friends to open Feb. 3

Art + Business

JACKSON – Andrew Wyeth: Close Friends, will debut at the Mississippi Museum of Art (MMA) Feb. 2 with a 10 a.m. press conference, thanks to a long list of sponsors.

“I think that the museum itself is a major business, and I think that’s one aspect of why businesses support us,” said Andrew Maas, the museum’s director. “We do business in this community.”

An employer of 17 full-time and 15 part-time employees, the MMA has an operating budget in excess of $2 million annually and an endowment of another $2 million.

“We’re a large business, and that makes a difference,” Maas said.

The major funding for the Andrew Wyeth exhibit comes from the Selby and Richard McRae Foundation. The MMA also receives corporate support from Jackson businesses, including BellSouth, Union Planters, Trustmark, Mobility and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi. BancorpSouth is underwriting other programs for the museum this year, as well as the Parkway/EastGroup Foundation Company.

The museum also receives funding from the Jackson Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the MMA and its programs are sponsored in part by the city of Jackson, the ArtsAlliance of Jackson and Hinds County, the Mississippi Arts Commission and the Mississippi Humanities Council.

Other support comes from the Irby Family, the Irby Companies and the Elizabeth Irby Foundation, as well as KPMG LLP, Ross & Yerger and Entergy.

Visual education important part of public responsibility

“A museum’s role in visual education is an important part of public responsibility,” said Andrew Maas, the museum’s director. “They (businesses) have associated with a good product and recognize the value of art. I think in each of these (supporting) organizations there is the awareness of the interest of their employees. It’s a fringe benefit for their employees.”

Maas said the benefits extend to advertising as well. “Their (business) name is associated with a quality product,” he said.

Carol Berry, executive vice president of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi, recognizes the importance of programs and projects that benefit the community as a whole. Promoting the arts helps make Mississippi more attractive,” she said. “For us that just means that if you make Mississippi a better place to live and have a career and a family, you’re ultimately benefiting the business community.”

Berry said the recognition her company receives as a result of their sponsorship of the MMA is a part of the benefit they get from donating, but that the picture is much bigger than that, and named community goodwill, civic pride and employee pride as other benefits.

Business involvement in the arts gives

employees sense of community spirit

And, she added, “I think for the same reasons we believe we benefit, other businesses would benefit as well. Businesses have the unique opportunity to get involved in their communities and to stay on a grassroots level. I think when you do that you give your company and your employees a sense of community spirit and belonging, and that can lend itself toward improving your employee morale and productivity.”

Patsy Tolleson, director of external affairs at BellSouth, said her company’s investment in the arts provides many economic benefits to Mississippi communities.

“The arts shape communities by involving residents, providing critical educational services and increasing quality of life,” she said. “As a corporation, we strive to improve the quality of life and create an atmosphere that will result in stronger and richer communities, so combining our corporate philosophy with support of the arts makes sense.”

Combination of different factors reason

for different business partnerships with MMA

The MMA is no exception to that rule, and BellSouth supports it because it is a permanent gallery where examples of work created by Mississippi artists and relating to Mississippi’s diverse heritage may be shown and preserved. They also support the museum because it collaborates with school systems, teachers and other arts organizations to develop programs that respond to the need for art education. The MMA does all this, not to mention the fact that it is Mississippi’s largest art museum and home to some very extraordinary works of art, Tolleson said.

“When you combine these factors, it’s easy to see why we view MMA as a partner in our commitment to improving the quality of life and building stronger communities.”

But those are not the only reasons BellSouth supports the arts.

“The arts serve as a significant business to the state in addition to being a major economic force,” Tolleson said.

According to Tolleson, in a study conducted last year, the nonprofit arts industry had an economic impact of $55.3 million in FY 1999, and the employment impact was nearly 1,500 full and part time jobs. That, she said, is roughly equivalent to the impact of a new manufacturer with 650 employees moving into the state.

“Businesses not only enjoy revenues generated by arts employees and events, but also use the arts as a recruitment tool for new employees,” she said.

Contact MBJ staff writer Elizabeth Kirkland at ekirkland@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1042.


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