Jamira Jackson, a senior vocal music student at Mississippi School of the Arts (c/o 2020), was invited to perform at the culmination activity of the Gloster Arts Project, a non-profit, 3-week artist-residency camp for children living in Gloster, Amite County, Mississippi. Gloster, located in deep, southwest Mississippi, was once a thriving Mississippi town, bolstered by a saw mill economy. Over the years, economic changes plagued the area, financially, but not talent-wise. “We firmly believe that exposure to the arts, culture, and history should be available to everyone, especially to kids in chronically under-served areas like Gloster,” says Margaret Troupe.
Margaret Porter-Troupe, a native of Gloster who now lives in New York, recalled the childhood experiences in Gloster. Not having visited in several years after moving away, she returned, bringing artists with her on a mission to expose area children to arts. Margaret Porter is married to renowned author and poet, Quincy Troupe. Quincy co-authored the book “The Pursuit of Happyness,” along with the screenplay for the movie “The Pursuit of Happyness,” with actor Will Smith. He is also responsible for writing two autobiographies of renowned jazz musician Miles Davis.
Funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, The Gloster Arts Project (dubbed The Gloster Project), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, headquartered in New York, NY, has been in operation since 2014, and has provided children of the area with quality arts education. According to Margaret, the executive director of the program, the vision is set to expand. “We want to expand the program to include adult classes and create a college track, and prepare students for audition into the Mississippi School of the Arts” she said. Troupe mentioned an artist colony located in Crosby, Mississippi, where artists come in from New Orleans and create work in the old Crosby school building purchased by the group.
“Last year we brought excellent teachers who taught poetry, guitar, performance and art classes for three weeks. We also provided the kids and teachers with healthy lunches every day. All this was at no cost to them or their families. Being a parent is tough, especially in Mississippi, a state where chronic poverty contributes to the highest high school dropout rate in the country. But studies have shown that access to arts education invests kids more in school and that in turn makes them much more likely to graduate. Staying in school gives these kids a real shot at success,” said Troupe on The Gloster Project’s official web site at https://theglosterproject.org
This past summer, The Gloster Project’s program director, Kelvyn Bell, a world-traveling professional guitarist, placed Jamira Jackson on the schedule to sing at the End of Camp Extravaganza on the evening of July 25th, 2019. Jamira is a native of Brookhaven. During her performance singing “I will always love you,” a rendition by Whitney Houston, the digitized background music abruptly stopped playing. The audience members told her to keep going. Jackson continued, and the room filled with emotions of praise. After the a capella performance, award-winning actor Danny Glover appeared from the back of the room and applauded Jamira on an outstanding performance. Glover, a Gloster Arts Project donor and proud supporter, stood at the front of the room and gave an inspiring message to the young teens and parents in attendance at Ezra Lodge in Gloster, MS.
Clinnesha Sibley, a literary instructor at Mississippi School of the Arts, participated as a teaching artist during the 2018 summer camp: “The teaching artists are so skilled and passionate. Being around Ms. Margaret and her team, knowing that they were all putting their hearts into this work, was inspiring. There’s so much potential in the Gloster community. You can tell that families are eager to see their children shine and blossom as young artists,” she said.
Mississippi School of the Arts has partnered with The Gloster Project to provide scholarships for select students to attend the annual MSA Summer Arts Camp. This partnership creates an MSA experience and gives potential students the option to audition and to attend MSA, if accepted per audition, during their junior and senior years of high school.
The Gloster Project is an example of how the arts can change communities in Mississippi, or anywhere for that matter. Donations are encouraged to help keep this wonderful project going. For more information about the program, and to see the artists participating in the camp, visit The Gloster Project official web site. Also visit The Gloster Project on facebook to see pictures, work, and stories shared by program staff: https://www.facebook.com/The-Gloster-Project-1378135452416655/