For Mississippi artists, ‘story and art go hand-in-hand’

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Even after graduating top of his class at Louisiana State University, where he earned a degree in landscape architecture, all Jackson glass artist Andrew Cary “Andy” Young wanted — and all he’s ever wanted — is to be an artist.

“I loved stained glass, so I learned all I could about it, and that’s all I’ve ever done,” he said.

In 1975, Young opened Pearl River Glass Studio, which quickly became the staging ground for his impressive career of creating stained glass windows for churches and public spaces. Creating an independent body of work, though, has been crucial to maintaining the level of professionalism for which Young has become known.

“For example, Walter Anderson worked in his family’s business as a decorator – a functional working artist. But he also spent a good amount of time creating art for himself. That’s the art that made him a well-known artist,” Young said.

“I think it’s like practicing piano. A concert pianist doesn’t just walk out on a stage and miraculously play. He must put in the time practicing. When it’s time for me to design a new window for a church or anything else, that practice helps me to create a design. I have to be ready and inspired when the time comes.”

Photo courtesy of Pearl River Glass Studio.

Andrew Cary Young presenting for “History is Lunch” — A Mississippi Department of Archives and History lecture series

Young is one of two recipients of the Mississippi Institute of Arts & Letters’ (MIAL) lifetime achievement award. MIAL, begun in 1978, supports, nurtures and recognizes Mississippi’s artists, including fiction and nonfiction authors, visual artists, musical composers, photographers and poets. Recipients of this year’s awards, who will be honored at a banquet Saturday at the Two Mississippi Museums, must be current Mississippi residents or have significant ties to the state. Nominations are made by active members of MIAL.

As part of the awards’ weekend activities, Young will host an open house at Pearl River Glass Studios from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday. The tour coincides with a special exhibit, “Introspective,” a collection of Young’s artwork through the years.

“This show is descriptive of what the MIAL award is all about,” Young said. “Stained glass tells a story. There’s a narrative in each piece. In the South, story and art go hand-in-hand. In Mississippi, we are all about the story. That’s what I’m doing with my church windows.”

William Dunlap, a Mississippi-born artist, writer and arts advocate, attended Young’s presentation on the window he created for the newly opened Mississippi Arts & Entertainment Experience in Meridian.

“I can’t say enough good things about Andy. Unlike many artists who left the state to pursue their work – and I’m in that demographic – Andy stayed in Mississippi and carved out a successful career doing the art that he loves,” Dunlap said.

Robert Ivy

Young shares the Noel Polk Lifetime Achievement Award, named for MIAL co-founder, with Robert Ivy, a Columbus native and executive vice president and chief executive officer of the American Institute of Architects. Ivy is also an accomplished writer, serving as former editor-in-chief of Architectural Record, and author of Fay Jones, Architect, published in 2001 and now in its third printing.

Photo by Melanie Thortis

The Mississippi Encyclopedia

In addition to the lifetime achievement awards, the 39th annual Mississippi Institute for Arts & Letters will present a special achievement award to The Mississippi Encyclopedia, a massive undertaking by editors Ted Ownby and Charles Reagan Wilson. The nine-pound tome features 1,500 essays by 650 authors on all things Mississippi, from academics and agriculture to Zig Ziglar.

The 2018 MIAL category winners are:

Michael Knight

Michael Knight

Michael Knight, fiction — Knight, who received his master’s of arts at the University of Southern Mississippi, is the author of novels The Typist and Divining Rod, and a series of short stories and novellas. The Typist was selected as Best Book of the Year by The Huffington Post and The Kansas City Star, and it was on Oprah’s Reading List in 2011. His newest collection of stories, Eveningland (Atlantic Monthly Press) was released in March 2017. Knight lives in Knoxville, Tenn., with his family and teaches creative writing at the University of Tennessee.

John T. Edge portrait

John T. Edge

John T. Edge, nonfiction — In addition to being director of the Southern Foodways Alliance, Edge is a James Beard Award winner. Edge, author of Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South, has long understood how the South, its stories and its food are all intertwined, and his work celebrates that in a way that helps Southerners feel proud of their heritage and others to understand and appreciate it.

Courtesy mollymccullybrown.com

Molly McCully Brown

Poet Molly McCully Brown, poetry — Brown’s collection of poems, The Virginia State Colony For Epileptics and Feebleminded, published in 2017, won the 2016 Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize and was named a New York Times Critics Top Book of 2017. Raised in rural Virginia, Brown graduated from Bard College at Simon’s Rock, Stanford University and she earned an MFA in poetry at the University of Mississippi.