Alex Mercedes Emphasizes Arts

“Mercedes Emphasizes Arts in Holly Springs” – a Slice of Life article (text as printed in The South Reporter on March 6, 2014) A performing artist inspired by every facet of life, Alex Mercedes teaches piano, gives lectures, and leads workshops that connect the mind and body. With a dream to introduce art to a small town, Mercedes left San Francisco in the summer of 2012 to come to Holly Springs and do exactly that. Her plan was to start an artist residency called the “Artist Retreat and Conference Center”, which would present the community with original works of art, inspired by the South. The residency would have been open to painters, writers, musicians, and performers. While the timing hasn’t been right for Holly Springs to host such a retreat, Mercedes’ dream to bring the arts to our town succeeds in a few unexpected ways. She shares her passion for music by teaching private piano lessons, playing piano at Grace Lutheran Church on Sundays, and by taking an active role in programs such as Behind the Big House. “It’s (creating art) about being open and inquisitive, and playful,” she says. Additionally, Mercedes offers workshops (or “playshops”, as she prefers to […]

Alisea McLeod, Slice of Life

“McLeod – Teacher, Researcher, Writer” – a Slice of Life article (text as printed in The South Reporter on March 6, 2014) Dr. Alisea McLeod, Professor of English and Humanities at Rust College, was recently appointed to be Rust’s new Interim Chair of Humanities. As part of the job, she’ll oversee multiple courses including Religion, English, Foreign Languages, Speech, Communications, and Mass Communications, as well as a tv and radio station. From an outsider’s perspective, it seems like an overwhelming amount of work, but McLeod is delighted with the opportunity. There’s so much potential in this job to teach, and she’s excited to see students discover their life’s work. After all, it was during the pursuit of higher education that she found hers. And she’s been researching, and writing about it ever since. Grounded in history and genealogy, the subject of McLeod’s work was inspired by the personal experiences she had growing up. Her point of interest: the emancipation and migration of African-American families from the South. “Like many families, my family didn’t talk about the past very much. My father tried to, but I think at the time he was raising us, people expected you to have a new […]

Shannon McNally Yoga & Music

“McNally Balances Yoga, Music” – a Slice of Life article (text as printed in The South Reporter on March 6, 2014) The word “Namaste” has a new musical ring to it thanks to one Holly Springs resident. In between album tours, singer-songwriter Shannon McNally brings one of the most popular forms of exercise, yoga, to the gyms of Holly Springs through scheduled classes and private yoga sessions. In her classes, McNally stresses the importance of deep breathing for improved focus, strength, and balance. She asks students what they would like to improve, and then tailors each workout based on their requests. The workout is also adapted to meet the needs of students with physical difficulties, and so, is very inclusive. It all coincides with McNally’s mantra: yoga is for everyone, regardless of where you start. Students are encouraged to focus only on their own practice, and not to make comparisons with one another. The class results in a welcoming, and relaxing experience. “It’s like music,” she says. “You don’t know who needs it.” McNally credits her own yoga practice for teaching her to slow down, and focus. In this way, yoga has enriched the other creative aspects of her life, […]

Hello March + April Snapshots

“A Diary of Favorite Shots” — With “Hello Snapshots” I usually write in an upbeat tone, and look at the month as one step in the greater journey. But I’m incredibly frustrated with March and April. If I could make an audible “ROAR” here, I probably would. With this batch of shots from Hello March + April, my work gradually took on a darker tone. I don’t think it’s permanent, I think the artist part of me was venting. I think what I really wanted to come through in some of these was that no one “owns” me, or my work. And no one can control me with promises, or new gear. Those things are fun, but they don’t make or break me as an artist (I can take pictures with an iPhone for God’s sake!), and I don’t kid myself into thinking they do. Welcome, May. I’m gearing up for you.

Hello Jan + Feb Snapshots

“A Diary of Favorite Shots” — In January, I looked for additional photography work. By February, I found some, and my personal photography updates slowed down. I’m now training in a new photography-related job, waiting (and excited) to see how things work out. Hello Jan + Feb introduces more shots from my personal work in the last two months, and includes some new Hipstamatic snapshots. A handful of others accompanied recent articles in the South Reporter, which will be featured on the “Articles” page soon.

Hello December Snapshots

“A Diary of Favorite Shots” — December ushered in television and eating. With part of my work put on hold due to holiday breaks, I dug up some of the lost gems of recent photo shoots, and looked into retooling my social media (again). I’m constantly on-and-off with Instagram (due to a like/hate relationship), but have finally learned how my tags are working (or not working). I still have more to learn, but it’s getting better. My snapshots on Flickr continues to grow in leaps. The platform is working out the best for my work and late-night post schedule. I also like the exchange I’m building with photographers I admire. Facebook, however, continues to be, by far, my worst social media, and I haven’t figured out how to grow it yet. But I can’t really dwell on it right now. Now, with the holidays behind us, I’m dwelling on article writing, scheduling shoots, and job hunting. I made a huge update to A Sweet Hello that reflects this. I’m actually really proud of this update. It’s the most focused one yet, and the template structure (the same template I’ve had since late 2012) gives me the flexibility to move things […]

Chalmers Institute Receives $80k

“Chalmers Institute Receives $80,000” – a report from the Marshall County Historical Museum (text as printed in The South Reporter on December 19, 2013) On December 10, 2013, Preserve Marshall County & Holly Springs, Inc. (PMCHS) announced on their Facebook page that Chalmers Institute, located on 151 S. W. Boundary Rd., will be the recipient of an $80,000 grant from the 2013 Community Heritage Preservation grant program. The grant was awarded by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) to further support the rehabilitation of the Chalmers Institute. Chalmers was originally built in 1837. In its occupancy, it served as a literary institute, a university, and later, a residential building. It has been unoccupied since the 1980s, and has been under rehabilitation since 2009. That’s the gist of the story. When we delve deeper into the grant’s requirements, the excitement expressed by Preserve Marshall County is more easily understood by, well, the rest of us. Grants are, generally, difficult to get. In this case, one can’t even begin to apply for such a grant without first being an official “Mississippi Landmark”, which involves another process of application and evaluation. Only nonprofits and municipalities can apply, and the property must […]

Archiving the School Room

“Archiving the School Room” – a report from the Marshall County Historical Museum (text as printed in The South Reporter on December 5, 2013) For the last month, the quiet of the Marshall County Historical Museum’s third floor has given way to the sound of shuffling paper. The scratch of a pen often follows it, and stops. Then starts again. Down the hallway where the typewriter collection sits, there’s a room with thousands of books and periodicals. They wrap around the walls, and more are piled onto desks, just below a chalkboard. Two large portrait paintings of Holly Springs’ school officials hang with authority over a small row of empty benches. This is the School Room, and Martha Fitch is at work, leaning over her notebook. An homage to old fashioned, single-room schools, the “School Room” isn’t an exact replica of an old schoolroom. However, with three desks, it is arranged to embody the spirit of one. The room houses the bulk of the Museum’s education-related items, including law books, encyclopedias, and vintage classroom photographs. If you find the theme a bit strange, in the context of the Marshall County Historical Museum, it makes perfect sense. Each room of the […]

Hello November Snapshots

“A Diary of Favorite Shots” — Not much can be said about November. This month I began interviewing locals for the Museum’s newspaper articles, and I branched out by taking day trips out of town.. which is where many of these “November” snapshots originated. Until this point, I haven’t had enough driving experience to do this, so it was a big step for me to take these mini-road trips around the South. Other projects this month were put on hold when I picked up seasonal work, and following that, everything slowed down for the impending holiday season. These last two months of the year are, almost always, the months when I feel the most anxious to work. It becomes a struggle to shoot through the dreary weather, and I have to create projects that won’t rely as much on other people’s availability during the holidays. Projects don’t always line up at this time, and I have to remember it’s sometimes better to huddle down and do whatever is readily available to do. Going into December, I’m expecting my plans to take a slight detour, but there is plenty to look forward to, and several people I’m excited to interview.

Lost at Sea

“Lost at Sea” – a report from the Marshall County Historical Museum (as printed in The South Reporter on November 21, 2013) Lieutenant Jim Bright Buchanan of Holly Springs, Miss. flew into Pearl Harbor without any guns. A radio operator on a B-17 aircraft, his squadron left San Francisco for the Philippines on Dec. 6, 1941, with a scheduled stop at Hickam Field in Honolulu. There, the plane would be armed for battle before picking up a battalion march in the Philippines. That was the plan. The surprise attack by the Japanese meant the squadron couldn’t land at their scheduled stop. Instead, they were diverted to Wheeler Field in the central part of Honolulu. The attack on the Harbor was in full swing, but they were safe. Born in 1915, Buchanan left work as a bonds salesmen in Memphis, Tenn. to enlist in the Army Air Corps in March of 1941, at the age of 26. After the incident at Pearl Harbor, he soon qualified as a bombardier. Mrs. Frances Buchanan, Lieutenant Buchanan’s widow, recalls during a recent interview that it was an exceptionally patriotic time. “I don’t think there has ever been a more patriotic time,” she said. On […]