Art Education Program
In the summer of 2002, visual artist Amy Evans began an arts education initiative with Drew residents. Evans is associate director of the Southern Foodways Alliance’s Oral History Initiative and a special projects consultant for Viking Range Corporation. She got involved with Lil’ Red in 2001 as a Southern Studies graduate student. Before coming to the university of Mississippi, Evans was an art instructor at the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston, Texas. She also volunteered a lot of time with a local non-profit called Project Row Houses, which is a community-based art and outreach organization in Houston’s third ward neighborhood.
She brought those experiences to Mississippi. After finding out that there are many schools in the Mississippi Delta that are unable to offer art classes to their students, she quickly decided to get involved. The William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation introduced her to the community of Drew. Rev. Gresham and other community members were so receptive to Evans’ energy and ideas that they quickly organized a youth art day with the youth group from the Holly Grove M. B. Church. Soon, those collaborations blossomed into an opportunity to volunteer-teach an art class across the highway from Lil’ Red at Hunter Middle School.
For a year Evans held a weekly art club with about twenty students. There were lots of fun projects, as well as visiting artists (authors, musicians,and painters) and a field trip to Oxford and the university. In addition to regular meetings, the Art Club completed a mural on an abandoned storefront on Main Street in downtown Drew. Over a weekend in November of 2002, this group of kids was able to collaborate with other community members, handing a paintbrush to anyone who happened by, and contribute to the beautification of their home. Art Club also created a float for the Drew Christmas Parade that year—a snowman that was created entirely out of recycled materials.
These community-wide efforts to change the face of Drew serve another purpose as well--the community now has ownership of these changes, further inspiring their impact and preservation. And for the children of Drew, such interaction and support across color lines serves as a positive example—a different kind of education that is not always found behind school walls. In Drew, the entire community has rallied around the revitalization of this small town, and it is only a hint of what is to come. As the Rosenwald School reaches completion and community resources and services move in, one can only imagine the future of this unique Delta town.
Evans has since helped to cofound a Deep South arts collective called PieceWorks, which co-sponsored the Farmer’s Market mural in Drew, designed by Evans and then painted with some help from local children.
Evans is still very much involved with the community of Drew today, although her work has taken other forms. As special projects consultant for Viking Range, she develops programming for specialized tours through the Delta in collaboration with the Center for the Study of Southern Culture and the Delta Center for Culture and Learning. Over the course of the past year, she has developed programming that brings many groups to the community of Drew. The groups visit Lil’ Red and discuss blues and civil rights history, and Evans has arranged for special luncheons to be hosted in the Farmers Market. Visitors are always amazed at how dedicated the people of Drew are to their community.