By Ayesha K. Mustafaa
As the Jackson Medical Mall Foundation (JMMF) announced it had received a $3 million grant to incorporate arts and culture into its strategic programming, a panel discussion was help October 13, 2015 with key players in the program and funding.
Called “community influencers,” the panel participants discussed how the grant program will promote greater integration with Jackson’s arts sector.
The grant from ArtPlace America is officially called the “Community Development Investments” (CDI) program, a one-time grant. The JMMF panel discussion highlighted the “importance of bridging the gap between arts, culture and comprehensive community planning and development.”
JMMF and ArtPlace America will strategize around potential opportunities to continue the focus on programs such as affordable housing, healthcare, access to transportation and workforce development.
Primus Wheeler, executive director of JMMF, spoke of the vision of Dr. Aaron Shirley, who saw great potential 20 years ago in the dilapidated property that now houses the Jackson Medical Mall, at 350 W. Woodrow Wilson Ave., and now valued at around $100 million.
He said the JMMF has established credibility that if their organizers say they will do a thing, it will get done. He spoke of a developer who praised the security efforts in the area of the Jackson Medical Mall. Wheeler said, “Our security effort is not only those patrolling with guns but the residents of the neighborhood who are always on watch.”
Wheeler said, “Dr. Shirley’s vision was that we not ‘change zip codes’ but ‘change our zip code’ – the area where we live and stay – to something better.”
ArtPlace America representatives, Executive Director Jamie Bennett and Program Manager Lyz Crane, explained why there needs to be a shift away from the notion of “artist as outsider” to “artist as neighbor,” when looking at who contributes to the realization of community goals in the evolution of place-based communities.”
This means having arts and culture alongside sectors like housing, transportation and public safety, when coordinating efforts around myriad outcomes, such as resiliency, economic development, open space, public health and youth opportunities.
JMMF specializes in providing comprehensive healthcare, human services, transportation, business leasing and property management, community development and economic opportunities for minority and economically disadvantaged residents in Central Mississippi and statewide.
The Jackson Medical Mall is strategically located along the developing medical corridor that will expand from the UMMC properties and programs across to I220.
ArtPlace America (ArtPlace) is a 10-year collaboration of foundations, banks, and federal agencies that exists to position art and culture as a core sector of comprehensive community planning and development in order to help strengthen the social, physical and economic fabric of communities.
In attendance were the daughter and son of Dr. Shirley – Erin Shirley-Orey and Terrence Shirley. She described how their family did all of their shopping in the area of the shopping mall before it went into decline in the early 1980s. Her father foresaw the building then become a one-stop shop for quality health care in the area.
Hinds County Supervisor Darrel McQuirter (Dist. 2), congratulated the workers at the JMMF for their successes that has improved the area for all Jacksonians.
The panelists were Janet Scott, executive director of Greater Arts Council; Jimmie Robinson, president of Community Advisory Board and CDC/CHDO Board; Monica Cannon-Butler, CDC/CHDO Board; and Charles Chapman, developer with Chartre Companies.
Marshand Crisler, deputy chief administrative officer for the City of Jackson, gave greetings on behalf of Mayor Tony Yarber.
Ben Wiley Payton, acoustic Blues artist, performed several selections.
One announcement during the panel discussion was the available special rental rate for artists who will also teach their skills to others.