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City of Jackson, Mississippi, to Receive $1 Million Grant for Public Art

Jackson, Mississippi, is the latest city to be awarded a $1 million Public Art Challenge Grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable organization of former New York City mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. Anchorage, Alaska, and Coral Springs, Florida, were also named as grant winners earlier this month.

The funds will support the project “Fertile Ground: Inspiring Dialogue About Food Access,” which aims to inform policy related to nutrition by using art as a medium to communicate the complexities of the issue in the city. Local and national artists, landscape architects, filmmakers, farmers, chefs, nutritionists, and community members will be invited to collaborate on a citywide exhibition featuring installations and performances, as well as other programming.

The initiative will activate public streets, community gardens, a local elementary school, and a vacant building, which will be converted into exhibition space and a food lab with a pop-up kitchen, to address challenges stemming from the proliferation of fast food restaurants in the area. According to the Clarion-Ledger, many areas of Jackson are considered food swamps where there is almost no access to grocery stores. Due to the overabundance of fast food, the city has the second highest obesity rate in the nation and the highest rate for children between the ages of ten and seventeen.

“The city is overjoyed to have been selected in this process,” Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said in a statement. “This was a highly competitive grant where over two hundred cities around the world applied to be a part of this Public Art Challenge. And so, to be able to aid in the aesthetic appeal of the city while delivering a message of healthy eating for the citizens of Jackson is a truly remarkable opportunity and we are ecstatic and look forward to seeing this project come into fruition.”

Among those participating in the project are artists Adrienne Domnick and Kara Walker; filmmakers Keegan Kuhn and Roderick Red; Mark Bittman, the country’s first food-focused op-ed columnist for the New York Times and a faculty member of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health; chef Nick Wallace; clean eating advocate Ron Finley; and landscape architect Walter Hood.

In February, Bloomberg Philanthropies invited mayors of US cities with thirty thousand residents or more to submit proposals for temporary public art projects that address important civic issues. Earlier this month, Anchorage, Alaska, was the first city to be announced as a winner in the 2018 Public Art Challenge for “SEED Lab,” followed by Coral Springs in partnership with Parkland, Florida, for “Inspiring Community Healing After Gun Violence: The Power of Art.” Additional winning cities will be announced in the coming weeks.