MS Native William Dunlap Focus of Free Art Symposium

Friends of the University of Mississippi Museum will present a poetry reading and symposium in conjunction with the Meditations on the Landscape in Art and Literature exhibition to unveil William Dunlap’s Meditations on the Origins of Agriculture in America during a two-day event.

William Dunlap
Photo by Elmo Thamm

The acquisition is made with support from the Mississippi Arts Commission’s Dille Fund, Friends of the Museum, and the artist. Dunlap is a Mississippi native, a painter, writer, arts advocate, and commentator. 

“Our obsession with the land shows up in poetry, prophecy, and painting, and that’s not likely to change,” Dunlap said. “The exhibition of photographs and paintings that accompany this symposium evidences the fact that the landscape can be seen and referenced in a variety of ways. They all evoke that timeless sense of place, which is necessary when we consider our origins in this world and the next.”

The two-day event will begin at 4 p.m. on March 25 with an opening reception for the Exhibition at the University Museum. At 6 p.m. in Nutt Auditorium, Natasha Trethewey will read from her work and comment on her perceptions of history during “The Lyrical Landscape.”

A native of Gulfport, Mississippi, she is the author of five collections of poetry, including Native Guard, winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in poetry, and Monument: Poems New and Selected, published in December 2018. Trethewey has served as poet laureate of Mississippi and two terms as poet laureate of the United States.

The symposium continues on March 26 and will be a full day of talks and panels focusing on landscape in art and literature. Doors open at 8:30 a.m. at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts, and the program will begin at 9:30 a.m.  Art historian and curator J. Richard Gruber will present the keynote address.

A veteran curator and director of several art museums including, from 1991 to 2001, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans, Gruber has authored many books and catalogs, among them “Dunlap: William Dunlap,” and he has been executive director of four award-winning documentary films on American artists, including “William Dunlap: Objects Found and Fashioned.”

The morning’s sessions will include “Southern Road Trip” moderated by Betsy Bradley, director of the Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson, in conversation with John Alexander, William Dunlap, Jane Livingston, and Julia Reed; and “The Power of Place in Art” moderated by Lisa Howorth, art historian, author, and co-owner of Square Books in Oxford, in conversation with John Grisham, Jane Livingston and Sally Mann.

After a break for lunch on the grounds of the Walton-Young House ($15 tickets available for advance purchase), sessions will continue with “The Written Word and Sense of Place in Landscape.” Dunlap will discuss painting and literature with John Grisham, Jessica B. Harris and Curtis Wilkie with moderator Ralph Eubanks.

The symposium’s final conversation, “Ways of Seeing Landscape” will include John Alexander, Jason Bouldin, William Dunlap, Carlyle Wolfe, and moderator Julian Rankin, director of the Walter Anderson Museum of Art in Ocean Springs.

The symposium, Meditations on the Landscape in Art and Literature, will culminate in a closing party at Saint Leo Lounge ($25 tickets available for advance purchase) on Tuesday evening from 5:30-7:30 p.m. 

All symposium conversations and the exhibition are open to the public without charge, made possible through the generous support of the Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area, the National Park Service and Friends of the Museum. Registration is free but required for the symposium.

To register and purchase tickets, and for more information on the exhibition, programs, and participants, visit

Courtesy of the UM Museum


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