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Southern Miss Arts Faculty Receive Mississippi Arts Commission Grants

Mon, 08/10/2020 - 13:44pm | By: Mike Lopinto

Various proposed art piecesSchool of Performing and Visual Arts faculty at The University of Southern Mississippi have been awarded grants from the Mississippi Arts Commission for creative arts projects.

The faculty members include Jennifer Torres, Kelly Lester, and Candice Salyers. These distinguished and highly competitive grants are a portion of the nearly $1.3 million in grants the Commission awarded in 2020-2021 and are made possible by continued funding from the Mississippi State Legislature and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Torres, a tenured faculty of art and design teaching sculpture and design, has been a fixture in the local arts community and in outdoor sculpture projects around the state. Torres has exhibited her work around the country and has a sculpture in the permanent collection of the Mississippi Museum of Art. Torres will be producing a new sculpture.

Salyers, assistant professor of dance, was recently one of the first dancers invited to speak at the Society for European Philosophy, and her publications include contributions to Tanz, Bewegung, und Spiritualität, The Journal of Environmental Philosophy, and the Journal of Performance and Mindfulness.

Salyers’ creative choreographic endeavor will be a site-specific dance film created in the landscapes of Gulf Islands National Seashore, that brings together renowned eco-artists, painter Mariah Reading and writer Kim O'Connell, in an effort to shine the light on the significance of this public landscape and the environmental challenges the Islands have faced. By implementing this project, the artists will develop a template that helps the Gulf Islands National Seashore create an Artist-in-Residence program.

Lester, director of the Center for Faculty Development and professor of dance, is also a certified Evans Teacher, a Registered Somatic Movement Therapist, and Co-director for Eastwest Somatics Institute for Yoga, Dance and Movement Studies. Lester has been featured at many national festivals including ACDA Galas (2006, 2011), and a tour of The Body Politic with collaborator and dancer Elizabeth Lentz-Hill.

Lester’s new dance work will center on the theme of empathy, as an expansion of a recent work created for students in the Repertory Dance Company called “Empathy Migrations” (2019). This choreography will include collaborations with both a local costume designer and musician. Lester’s goal is to create dances focused on

embodiment from a somatic movement education perspective, and the creation of dances that provoke personal reflection among the viewers.

“Artists have been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and as such, we are truly grateful to be able to provide grants to talented individuals across the state,” said Malcolm White, executive director of MAC. “These artists infuse their communities with the creative spirit and inspiration we need during these times, and we are proud to support their efforts."

For more information about Southern Miss School of Performing and Visual Arts visit