National Endowment for the Arts Presents Historic Welty Film
Presentation is made at grant workshop co-sponsored by Senator Cochran and Mississippi Arts Commission for Mississippi nonprofit arts organizations
August 24, 2006
Washington, D.C. – It was a thrilling day for Mississippians and for scholars around the world when National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Chairman Dana Gioia revealed the discovery of more than five hours of color film of one of the great literary voices of the South, Eudora Welty.
At a news conference at the Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson, Chairman Gioia delivered the eight precious canisters of 16 mm film to The Honorable William Winter, former Governor of Mississippi and President of the Board of Trustees for the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH), and Mary Alice White, niece of Eudora Welty and Director of the Welty House.
"It was Miss Welty herself who said, 'never think you've seen the last of anything,'"said Chairman Gioia. "I'm delighted to say she was right. These five hours of film represent one of the greatest literary discoveries of the last decade. We are proud to bring these films home to Mississippi and to support their preservation.”
The footage, of Eudora Welty reading and discussing her work, was shot in 1975 as part of an NEA-funded project and was excerpted for the 1975 documentary "The Writer in America.”
Accompanying the delivery of the film was an announcement by Chairman Gioia that the NEA would award MDAH a $10,000 grant for the digitization and preservation of the film, which will then be viewed by visitors to the Eudora Welty House.
"I can barely contain my joy!"said Mary Alice White. "This is unbelievable. [This film is] the earliest known footage of Eudora.”
The NEA has long enjoyed a special relationship with Eudora Welty. A Pulitzer prize-winning author, she served on the National Council on the Arts, the NEA's presidentially appointed advisory board, from 1972-1978, and was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1986 by President Ronald Regan.
The news conference was held prior to a special grant workshop conducted by the NEA for the state's nonprofit community arts organizations. Co-sponsored by Sen. Cochran and the Mississippi Arts Commission, the workshop was part of the agency's outreach to Mississippi arts organizations to encourage them to apply for Arts Endowment grants.
"This workshop will enable Mississippians to find additional sources of federal grants from the National Endowment for the Arts,"said Sen. Cochran. "Mississippi has long been known for its rich cultural and artistic heritage, and it is my hope that this artistic creativity will be supported with federal funding."
NEA Chairman Dana Gioia explained the importance of the arts to the nation and Mississippi in particular: "In order for the recovery of the Gulf Coast to be complete, the arts have to be restored to their place not only as viable engines of local economies, but also as irreplaceable sources of replenishment for the human spirit. The arts give us the communities we want to live in."Chairman Gioia also spoke about opportunities for funding through the NEA's Big Read program, which is designed to revitalize the role of reading in American popular culture.
Malcolm White, Executive Director of the Mississippi Arts Commission, also spoke, emphasizing the importance of the states' partnership with the NEA. Betsy Bradley, Director of the Mississippi Arts Museum, spoke about the NEA funding her organization has received in the past and its impact on the museum's growth.
The press conference and grants workshop were held at the Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson. Tony Chauveaux, Deputy Chairman for Grants and Awards, led the free session, which included a discussion of federal opportunities for projects that:
Following the press conference, Chairman Gioia toured the Eudora Welty House, Tougaloo College's art collection, and the Medgar Evers House, before traveling to the Mississippi Gulf Coast to meet with arts organizations affected by the hurricanes.
This year, the National Endowment for the Arts marks its 40th anniversary of leadership in the arts. The NEA is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts - both new and established - bringing the arts to all Americans, and providing leadership in arts education. Established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government, the Arts Endowment is the largest national funder of the arts, bringing great art to all 50 states, including rural areas, inner cities, and military bases. For more information, please visit www.arts.gov.
The Mississippi Arts Commission is a state agency, funded by the Mississippi Legislature, the National Endowment for the Arts, The Wallace Foundation, and other private sources. MAC is the official grants making and service agency for the arts in Mississippi. The agency serves as an active supporter and promoter of arts in community life and in arts education.
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