New CAC director places focus on outreach, 'dying' arts


Jan Miller has been hired as the executive director for the Columbus Arts Council. Miller will take on her new role on Aug. 1.

Jan Miller has been hired as the executive director for the Columbus Arts Council. Miller will take on her new role on Aug. 1. Photo by: Jennifer Mosbrucker/Dispatch Staff


Beverly Norris

Beverly Norris



Isabelle Altman



Jan Miller went from painting to framed poster to quilt in the art gallery at Rosenzweig Arts Center Thursday afternoon, pointing out her favorite pieces and explaining how each of the artists hails from the Golden Triangle area. 


The exhibition was Western Horizons, featuring art from five local artists whose pieces had a Western theme. Miller pointed out her favorite, a picture of Native Americans on horseback by Andre Ray. 


"My mother was an artist," she said. "She did watercolor and she also did acrylics. She always wanted us to express ourselves. 


"If I could do anything to carry on that legacy of my mother, I would do that," she added. "So when this job came open, I thought this is really something I've always wanted to do." 


Miller was named new executive director of the Columbus Arts Council last month, a position she will officially assume on Aug. 1. A Columbus resident for 40 years, Miller spent many of those working with area nonprofits through the Lowndes County United Way. She was executive director for Columbus Main Street in the early 2000s when the Columbus Riverwalk was being built.  


Most recently, she worked with Mississippi Main Street Association, where she traveled around to more than 50 communities helping promote arts and events. 


"What I love and what I'm excited about is being in an organization (that has) been here a long time," she said of the CAC. "And it's an organization that means a tremendous amount to our community as well as our downtown, so it's a perfect fit for me ... after working statewide with 54 communities to come home and be a part again of the community I love." 


The arts council oversees programs for art, music and theater in the community. It hosts art gallery openings and yearly annual events such as the Willie Blues Festival and Possum Town Tales Storytelling Festival, as well as educational outreach programs for children and adults. As executive director, Miller will oversee staff, fundraising and grant writing and implementation. 


Miller said she first hopes to receive input from community members about what they'd like to see from the arts council. She plans to focus on four issues: the CAC's branding, enhancing its ongoing programs, ensuring it offers the best services for the money it receives and ensuring it reaches every age group in the community. 


That last one is particularly important to her. She wants to works with area schools -- she specifically mentioned Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science and Mississippi University for Women -- to expand the council's art education programs and be sure those programs reach every age group in schools and out. 


"We have a lot of potential to grow in those areas," she said. 


She wants to bring in more classes, particularly those that focus on dying arts, such as tap dancing.  


On the administrative side, she said, she wants to focus on raising awareness of the council and recruiting more volunteers. 


"You've got to have money, you've got to have awareness and everything else will fall in place," she said. 


CAC Program Coordinator Beverly Norris, who has been interim director at CAC for a year, said she's excited to work with Miller. 


"We're really excited for her to be here," she said. "She's got a great history. She knows everyone in Columbus. I know she's going to be able to hit the ground running. She knows how to make things work, and I am very excited for her to be on board. 


"I always think it's great to have someone from Columbus doing things like this," she added. "I think that's going to be another plus for her." 


Miller said over the last years she's worked in communities that didn't have their own arts councils, meaning she would help them set up art galleries in local businesses or come up with other ways to have music and theater events. Doing that, she said, has highlighted for her the importance of Columbus having its own center for arts. 


"The coolest thing about coming home to Columbus is that the Arts Council is a mainstay," she said. "It's important, it's part of our culture here and it is a huge asset to our community. If you had to ask what all our assets are you'd say the Riverwalk but you'd also say the Arts Council. Having a building downtown that is dedicated to the arts is huge."




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