Oxford is a cultural mecca. Internationally known as the home of Nobel Prize-winning author William Faulkner, Oxford has been named one of “The 100 Best Small Arts Towns in America.” The area’s abundant cultural resources include a generous supply of talented performers, writers, visual artists, musicians, filmmakers and educators. Oxford-Lafayette County and the University of Mississippi stage a wide assortment of concerts, theater productions, exhibits, readings, lectures and symposia throughout the year, drawing from a richly diverse population, as well as visiting artists and scholars and major touring groups. For information about cultural activities throughout Oxford and Lafayette County, visit the community calendar at www.visitoxfordms.com, the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council website at www.oxfordarts.com and the University of Mississippi’s Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts website at www.fordcenter.org
Around Oxford, the lively sounds of jazz, blues and rock music can be heard regularly at numerous restaurants and clubs, and a growing number of performing arts groups perform classic and original works at various locales. Art galleries host shows and receptions for artists spanning every genre including a monthly art crawl on the fourth Tuesday of each month from January to October. The University Museum and Historic Houses, the Powerhouse Community Arts Center and Oxford-Lafayette Public Library regularly offer displays and programs for adults and children to enjoy. The Powerhouse features a 220-seat theater or 400-person concert space, features a gallery of rotating regional artists, along with meeting spaces and education programs year round.
The Gertrude C. Ford Performing Arts Center, a state-of-the-art venue on the UM campus, hosts an average of 150 events annually. It is the centerpiece of the university’s cultural and scholarly mission to present the finest in the performing arts and visiting lecturers.
Prince Edward, the King of Jordan, Janet Reno, Cornell West, James Earl Jones and Thomas Friedman are among a growing list of authors and noted intellectuals that have appeared in the Ford Center. Morgan Freeman, Hal Holbrook, Art Garfunkel, Marty Stuart, The Blind Boys of Alabama and B.B. King are only a few of the performers that have appeared on the stage of the Ford Center in a vigorous schedule of performances that also includes national tours of Broadway shows.
One of the newest additions to the Oxford Art scene is the Yokna Sculpture Trail, which features a rotating exhibit of 18 large-scale sculptures by locally, regionally and nationally renowned exhibiting artists. This collaboration between the City of Oxford, the University of Mississippi, Yoknapatawpha Arts Council and University Museum is the first outdoor sculpture program of its kind in North Mississippi. A vibrant arts culture and beautiful green spaces are at the heart of what makes our community great. For more information on the sculptures and locations, go to www.sculpture.oxfordarts.com
Ole Miss Theatre, part of the Department of Theatre Arts at the University of Mississippi, performs a wide range of plays, musicals and dance concerts that are enjoyed by the university and Oxford communities. Go to www.theatre.olemiss.edu for a full schedule of events. The local theater company, Theatre Oxford, hosts the national 10 Minute Play Contest, which receives hundreds of submissions from around the country from playwrights hoping to have their production staged for the festival. Visitwww.theatreoxford.com for more details.
In late April, Oxford pulls out all the stops when it hosts the Double Decker Arts Festival – a lively celebration of music, art and food on the historic downtown Courthouse Square. The day begins with the
Double Decker Spring Run, which united over 1,700 runners from our region for a 10K run, 5K run and a Kids Fun Run through the Ole Miss campus and downtown Oxford. For more information, go to www.doubledeckerspringrun.com.
The festival, named for the town’s authentic English tour bus, draws more than 60,000 people for a day of entertaining sights, sounds and flavors. Over 150 art vendors from around the region display their creative wares, including pottery, glass craftsmanship, woodwork and artists working in a variety of mediums. Throughout the afternoon and evening, shoppers can browse to the rhythmic sounds of bluegrass, jazz, gospel, blues, country, folk, Cajun and regional rock-and-roll groups. Other attractions of the day include the “Taste of Oxford” food court, the Children’s Square Fair and the Best Dressed Pet Contest. For a full schedule of the weekend’s events, check out the websitewww.doubledeckerfestival.com. The 22nd Annual event is scheduled for April 27 & 28, 2018.
Every year over Memorial Day weekend in Oxford, the World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest is held to provide an opportunity for aspiring pianists to compete and to educate people about old-time piano music written prior to 1940.
Through the years, the contest has provided more than $50,000 in prize money to more than 500 piano players from across the United States and from five foreign countries. Players compete in two divisions – Regular and Junior – as they vie for close to $6,000 and trophies, including in the Piano Duet and New Rag Contests, where aspiring composers present their original tunes. The contest takes place on the University of Mississippi campus and the Historic Oxford Square, bridging traditional music with new compositions with flair and style.
On Sundays in June, the Lafayette-Oxford-University Summer Sunset Series presents a changing medley of free outdoor entertainment, in The Grove on the Ole Miss campus, including jazz, gospel and various other flavors of music. The community’s Annual LOU 4th of July Community Celebration, sponsored by Olin-Winchester, is complete with live music on the Grove stage, a vast children’s play fi area, a Fourth of July parade, a Firecracker bash, a community picnic in the Grove, the Stars and Stripes Run, all culminating with a dazzling fireworks show at nightfall, is featured in the series. Go to www.lou4thofjuly.com for more information.
During the spring and fall, the internationally famous Square Books hosts the Thacker Mountain Radio Show, a live radio broadcast showcasing prominent writers who read from their work between sets by local musicians.
The Fiber Festival, now in its seventh year, is Mississippi’s largest fiber art festival. The three-day event draws visitors and artists from six states to take part in workshops, observe demonstrations and watch craftspeople transform fiber into works of art. The event is hosted every January at the Powerhouse Community Arts Center.
The Oxford Film Festival was created in 2003 to bring exciting, new and unusual films (and the people who create them) to North Mississippi. The annual four-day film festival, held in February, continues to attract quality films and highlight the talents of young filmmakers from all over the world to North Mississippi to screen alongside the work of local filmmakers and has been praised for its hospitality.
The festival screens films of varying lengths and categories (animation, documentary feature and short, experimental, narrative feature and short) in both showcase and competition settings, hosts panel discussions on issues in contemporary filmmaking and invites the filmmakers to interact with the audience at a number of social events. The Oxford Film Festival entertains and educates its participants, providing residents and visitors with the opportunity to watch independent films, as well as to meet the filmmakers and learn from industry professionals. The variety of films, in addition to the panels, attracts filmgoers of all ages and backgrounds. Visit www.oxfordfilmfest.com for more information.
Two international literary conferences are held in Oxford each year: The Faulkner & Yoknapatawpha Conference, in its 42nd year, and The Oxford Conference for the Book, in its 22nd year. Day and evening presentations feature some of the most celebrated authors in America, and attract writers, scholars, editors and publishers from around the world. Also held in Oxford each year is the Music of the South Conference, in its 11th year; the Annual Blues Today: A Living Blues Symposium, in its 13th year; and the Annual Southern Foodways Symposium, in its 18th year.
Southeastern Conference sports and the Ole Miss Rebels are a great source of excitement around Oxford and Lafayette County throughout the school year. Fall football game days are replete with tailgate parties and reunions in The Grove, and generate a special atmosphere of energy and fun all around.