Released May 5, 2003


HATTIESBURG - Since 1997, Partners for the Arts has supported wholeheartedly the arts programs at The University of Southern Mississippi. At a press conference Thursday at the Polymer Science building on campus in Hattiesburg, the chair of the advisory board for the organization announced a plan to provide even greater support and stability to this highly visible arm of 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, chair of the advisory board for Partners.

"Having seen firsthand 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 and their educational outreach needs."

Suzanne Hirsch, assistant to the dean for development for the college, describes the current process for fund raising as a "free-for-all" at times.

"Departments have held individual annual fund drives to support themselves," Hirsch explained. "Thus, one arts patron may receive numerous requests for financial backing of different programs."

Hirsch 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 12 months of planning, the Partners advisory board voted on April 9 to approve the plan, thereby becoming 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," Guice said during the news conference. "Any sponsorship to the arts during the academic year of August to May will automatically make the donor a Partner at levels designated by the amount of the gift.

"Donors may designate their contribution to any arts area they would like to support. This restructuring plan will better support what many of us take for granted every day."

During its first seven years of operation, Partners has sponsored such events as concerts by Marvin Hamlisch, Ray Charles, and B.B. King; professional dance companies like Ballet Florida and Jane Comfort; lectures by renowned artists and museum curators; and theatrical productions from the Alabama Shakespeare Festival and the Shenandoah Shakespeare Company.

For the 2003-04 membership year, Guice also announced a Partners gala event October 24, 2003, featuring Grammy Award-winning artist Kathy Mattea in concert. In addition, Partners will collaborate with the Southern Miss arts areas in hosting guest artists such as The Actors Gang of Los Angeles, the Shapiro and Smith Dance Company, visual artists Ed McGowin and Thornton Willis and the Jazz Reach Metta Quintet.

"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," Hirsch said.

The 2003-04 Partners for the Arts membership campaign will begin immediately and will continue through August. For more information, contact Suzanne Hirsch at (601) 266-5922 or e-mail



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July 15, 2003 2:29 PM