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Oxford Artists Reflect on Growth with the Approach of the CSA Closing Reception

By Makayla Steede

Journalism Student


With the Community Supported Arts closing reception taking place on Friday, June 24 at 6 p.m. at the Powerhouse, the sponsored artists and small business owners reflected on how the CSA has helped them grow their businesses. 

“The CSA is an annual project of the Arts Council assisting local creatives in launching new ideas,” Wayne Andrews, executive director of the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, said. “The program is free to local artists and creatives with applications opening late summer of each year.”

The CSA offers the sponsored artists opportunities for professional development, community exposure, community support through pre-investment shares, and a $500 stipend, which can be used to purchase equipment or enhance their business.

This year’s CSA sponsored artists are Erin McDonald of Five Lights Candle Co., Keiona Jackson of Kei Gourmet, Hunter Johnson of Quasar literary magazine and CJ Cook of KasinoKustumz.

McDonald became involved in the arts council by bringing her candles to community markets in Oxford where she met Andrews and Meghan Gallagher, the education and outreach coordinator at YAC, and learned about the CSA. 

Once she applied and was accepted, one of McDonald’s goals was to get support for her accounting and financing, help with marketing and grow her business. 

“My business is Five Lights Candles Co., and it has a symbolic meaning,” McDonald said. My five lights are my five little people Blessed, Messiah, Genesis, Achilles and Abraham.”

Five Lights Candle Co. offers candles in a variety of scents and sizes as well as the customized color and scent options, and CSA has helped McDonald improve her website design, social media advertising and accounting resources. 

McDonald is also thankful for how the CSA has allowed her to teach her children about being entrepreneurs and to invest in themselves. 

“With that, I’m hoping to pass on generational wealth and just build my business,” McDonald said. “We’re just thankful for this opportunity.” 

Cook, who was born and raised in Oxford, did not learn about the CSA until he was helping paint the mural for Shaw Ace Hardware, and Adam Davis of the YAC told him about the opportunities the Powerhouse and YAC could provide him. 

Like McDonald, the CSA also helped Cook grow his custom shoe and apparel, KasinoKustumz, business by teaching him how to market his business and by helping him network with community members. 

“I’m not really a social media type person,” Cook said. “I mostly keep to myself, so I didn’t really have a lot of outreach. With them, they gave me all the outreach that I needed to gain a bunch of new customers.”

Through the support and opportunities provided by the CSA, Cook’s profits have tripled, and he urges all artists and small business owner to take advantage of the free resources offered by the CSA and the YAC. 

“They have a lot of resources they give you for being a CSA artist, and, honestly, they give those same resources to the public as well,” Cook said “Free classes on how to make websites, how to use social media, how to track your (account) books, and it’s all free. It’s good for any business owner, not just artists, any small business owner.”

Community members also have the opportunity to support the CSA sponsored business owners by pre-investing in the businesses, which can be done on the YAC website. 

For example, one share in McDonald’s business cost $15, and the investor gets a limited edition 9 oz. candle. Two shares offered a candle sampler pack for $35. 

For $30, an investor would be entered into Cook’s raffle to receive a free pair of custom tennis shoes in their preferred size.  

Gallagher thinks the community effort to support the arts economy in Oxford is vital to the community’s atmosphere and appeal. 

“It’s all about a term called creative placemaking,” Gallagher said. “It’s the artists that give the funky unique flavor to Oxford that’s here, whether it’s John Currence at City Grocery who established this culinary empire. You have this North Mississippi region that’s rich with music and arts, and people can enjoy themselves here. It shapes what our community looks like.”

While this year’s CSA term is coming to an event, the CSA Closing Reception gives the community another chance to support the artists and business owners. 

The reception will feature free food and live music starting from 6p.m. to 8p.m. and give community members an opportunity to meet the artists and potentially view or sample their products. 

Adam Brown
Adam Brown
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