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Mississippi Arts Commission releases curriculum to honor bicentennial

The Mississippi Arts Commission has released a curriculum exploring the history of the state through the arts to commemorate Mississippi’s bicentennial year.

A curriculum spanning two centuries, Mississippi History through the Arts: A Bicentennial Journey is based on select artworks from the Mississippi Museum of Art’s exhibitions, Picturing Mississippi: Land of Plenty, Pain, and Promise and The Mississippi Story as well as photos from MAC’s Bicentennial Folklife Survey.

The MAC says that the curriculum is available for free download through their website and that it is appropriate for elementary, intermediate and advanced grade levels.

Collaborating with the Mississippi Department of Education, MAC’s bicentennial curriculum aligns with the state’s social studies, arts and language arts standards and focuses on the grade levels in which Mississippi history is taught.

“Mississippi’s history is rooted in its creative contributions to the world, and it is fitting that we tell our state’s story in an artistic way,” said Malcolm White, executive director of MAC. “Many creative Mississippians have shared their visions and talent with an international audience, casting our state in a positive light. It is our sincere hope that the next generation of Mississippians will carry on these traditions of creative excellence and contribute to a new, vibrant chapter in Mississippi history.”

In twenty lessons, the curriculum takes students through the history of the state starting with Native American artifacts and Choctaw baskets.

Early statehood is explored through hand-drawn maps depicting early settlements, portraits of Native American leaders and landscapes of Natchez and the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

The curriculum introduces students to the antebellum period and Civil War though engravings and early photography.

The Great Flood of 1927, the Great Depression and the Civil Rights Movement are presented through the advent of the Blues and mixed-media artwork.

Mississippi’s modern period is represented through the lens of artists like Walter Anderson, Dusti Bongé and Joe Overstreet, as well as, through artwork created in response to disasters like Hurricane Katrina.

The last lesson of the curriculum invites students to reflect on the history of the state and to envision its future.

“We are excited to present this curriculum as a high quality arts education tool for Mississippi teachers to incorporate into their classrooms,” said Charlotte Smelser, MAC arts education director. “We are also pleased to partner with the Mississippi Museum of Art on this project and encourage educators, students and parents to see the original artwork featured in the curriculum at the upcoming exhibit, Picturing Mississippi: Land of Plenty, Pain, and Promise.”

In an effort to connect the past to the present, the curriculum provides examples of artists who carry on Mississippi’s artistic traditions today in each lesson.

MAC said that the curriculum offers numerous opportunities to interact with artists and cultural organizations across the state by encouraging teachers to and invite these community members and groups into the classroom.

They added that while the curriculum was created to commemorate Mississippi’s bicentennial, the document has no expiration date.

MAC said they intend for the curriculum to serve as an enduring story of the arts in Mississippi for many years to come.

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