MMA & UMMC Awarded Grant from Institute of Museum and Library Services

September 7, 2022

A gallery of paintings
“New Symphony of Time” is the permanent collection at the Mississippi Museum of Art

The Mississippi Museum of Art (MMA) and University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) announced they are the recipients of a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The $250,000 grant will support the upcoming exhibition What Became of Dr. Smith?, along with public programming and expanded art therapy partnerships between the two institutions.

The exhibition and public programs will be presented at MMA in the fall of 2023.

This year, IMLS awarded more than $29 million in grants to museums across the nation. A total of 199 projects were selected from 587 applications.

What Became of Dr. Smith? is artist Noah Saterstrom’s personal exploration of his family’s history with mental illness in Mississippi. The exhibition features large-scale paintings which chronicle the disappearance, and subsequent removal from the family records of Saterstrom’s great grandfather, optometrist Dr. David Smith. Through archival and family research, Saterstrom has discovered that his great grandfather’s disappearance was due to his life internment at the former Mississippi State Asylum. In this exhibition, Saterstrom aims to address the all too real blindness of contemporary culture to the prevalence of mental health issues in our country.

“We are honored to be recognized by the Institute of Museum and Library Services for this partnership with UMMC,” said Betsy Bradley, Director of the Mississippi Museum of Art. “This grant will allow us to maximize our resources to present a thoughtful exhibition that allows the Museum to initiate much-needed conversations about the prevalence of mental health issues in our society and ways to help mitigate inaccurate impressions associated with it. Our partnership with UMMC will allow us to better understand and deploy the clinical benefits of art therapy and further meaningful connections with our visitors.”

The AHRC will produce a historical and interactive retrospective about the old asylum which will support its mission of continuing to build a ‘descendant community’ of those whose ancestors lived or worked at the old asylum.

“We are enthusiastic about the collaboration between the MMA and the Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities (CBMH),’ said Dr. Ralph Didlake, Director of UMMC’s CBMH which oversees the Asylum Hill Project. “Art is an excellent instrument with which we can understand the lived experience of the individuals treated at the Mississippi State Asylum. This work allows us to explore the role of art in healing – both for patients and caregivers.”

MMA and UMMC currently partner on two art therapy initiatives: Art in Mind and Creative Healing Studio. Art in Mind is an interactive art therapy program that invites individuals experiencing memory loss or mild cognitive impairment and their care partner to explore the galleries and make their own works of art. By stimulating observation, recall, and response, this program helps participants manage their stress or anxiety, cope with change, and gain personal insight. Creative Healing Studio is an art therapy gathering for adults being treated for cancer or those with a cancer diagnosis in their past led by a licensed art therapist. Using the practices of art therapy in an open studio setting, this program helps participants manage stress, cope with change, and gain personal insight or self-awareness. The two institutions also partner on Art & Medicine, a program for first-year UMMC medical students to practice close observation and empathic listening through guided exercises examining works of art and engaging in dialogue with one another.