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Released August 04, 2004


HATTIESBURG -- Ten community leaders have joined the Partners for the Arts board of directors for 2003-2004. Charles Brown, Nollie Felts, Kaye Chambless, Peter Ciurczak, Michael Marks, Karen Mannoni, Tammy Martin, Richard Jones, Linda McMurtrey, and Rachel Shemper-Schwartz, all of Hattiesburg, will assist the board's newly elected chair, Meg Puckett, and sitting board members in supporting the arts at The University of Southern Mississippi.

"We at Southern Miss are extremely fortunate to have an organization totally devoted to the arts and its outreach to our community," said Kristy Gould, development officer for the College of Arts and Letters at Southern Miss. "Together we have done things for both Southern Miss students and the entire community that we otherwise could not have accomplished."

Gould especially sees this new set of board members, all proven leaders in the community, as an asset to the organization.

"The board is a compilation of citizens from many facets of the community that brings a wealth of knowledge to the organization," Gould stated. "These new faces will add yet another perspective on how we in the College can serve south Mississippi.

The leadership experience, especially in arts education, of the new board members joining Puckett for the new term of office is vast: Brown, local business owner; Felts, a retired physician; Chambless, a private music teacher and former director of the Community Arts School; Ciurczak, retired director of the School of Music at Southern Miss; Marks, drama teacher at Hattiesburg High School and arts advocate; Mannoni, arts advocate and wife of the late Dr. Raymond Mannoni, dean of the former College of The Arts at Southern Miss; Martin, development director for Sacred Heart School; Jones, local business owner and Hattiesburg's ADP vice chair; McMurtrey, retired historic preservationist now working with the Historic Hattiesburg Downtown Association; and Shemper-Schwartz, community volunteer and arts advocate.

Since 1997, Partners for the Arts has supported wholeheartedly the arts programs at Southern Miss. The organization was founded as an alliance between the community and the university to enhance the arts in Hattiesburg and surrounding areas. Recently, the organization restructured its role with the university.

"Since our inception, the Partners' role was limited to supplying funding for events and programs that mainly benefited its members and the community at large," said Nancy Guice of Laurel, past chair of the advisory board for Partners. "Having seen first-hand the exceptional programs offered here and having been privy to the many talents of the faculty and students, we have adjusted our role to better serve the arts at Southern Miss and their educational outreach needs."

Gould said the new plan allows for a more streamlined approach for fund raising that will "provide better visibility for all arts programs and relieve the community of the constant pressure to support numerous projects annually."

After extensive planning, the Partners advisory board became the umbrella fund-raising organization for Southern Miss' arts programs. Freedom of choice played a crucial role in the adoption of this plan.

"What this means is that Partners for the Arts will serve the arts as the Eagle Club serves athletics," said Dr. Elliott Pood, dean of the College of Arts and Letters and Partners' executive director. "Sponsorship to the arts through this unique alliance during the academic year of July to June will automatically make the donor a Partner at levels designated by the amount of the gift."

New board president Puckett also adds that Partners benefits the community at large. "Our partnership not only positively affects the Southern Miss arts education efforts but promotes the arts in the larger community and in schools who are now having to downsize their arts program because of lack of funding. We can help bring world-class cultural events to all students."

For the 2004-05 membership year, Partners has committed to sponsorship of the New York Voices concert Sept. 24, guest artist lecturer Faith Ringgold Sept. 23; and providing a master class with flutist Sir James Galway Oct. 5. The organization also supported the recent Independence Day celebration presented by the Symphony Orchestra--the July 2 Mississippi Holiday Spectacular.

"Not only will these events be great arts events for all of us to attend, but will include performances and educational opportunities for local K-12 schools and our own university students," Gould said.

The 2004-05 Partners for the Arts membership campaign is currently under way. For more information, contact Gould at the College of Arts and Letters at (601) 266-5922 or e-mail


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August 27, 2004 1:48 PM