Development Foundation
P.O. Box 145, Belzoni, MS 39038
662-247-4838  fax 662-247-4805 
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Blues Man

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Catfish on Parade

A Public Art Project Sponsored by the Humphrey's Art Council, City of Belzoni and Belzoni-Humphreys Development Foundation

In making the SOS (Save Outdoor Sculpture) inventory of the State of Mississippi, it was determined that BELZONI has more outdoor sculpture per capita than any other city in Mississippi.

By Melissa Townsend

The Humphreys Arts Council, along with the City of Belzoni and the Belzoni-Humphreys Development Foundation, unveiled "Catfish on Parade," an art display of 42 creatively painted fiberglass catfish in front of local businesses and through-out the quaint Delta town. You will see characters strutting around town such as "Florence Nightingale" sponsored by the hospital, "Alicat" at 107 restaurant, and "D. Fin Der" in front of a local law firm.

Belzoni seems to have the natural ingredients for a recipe of success to cook up such an artful undertaking. They are an enthusiastic former mayor, a slew of both professional and surprisingly talented amateur artists, and a ubiquitous town mascot that has managed to sustain itself in today's volatile farming economy. Former mayor Tom Turner, arts council board member Laura Townsend and local artist Betty Parker had each seen fiberglass animals showcased on the streets of New Orleans and Seattle. The trio traveled to Meridian, the first city in Mississippi to join the national phenomenon, to see 37 colorful carousel horses on display. Official plans were soon underway.

Standing five-feet-tall, the custom molds were designed by Cow Painters of Chicago, the studio who also provided consultation for the Meridian exhibit. Local businesses sponsored a fish and an artist. "So many places have done this as a charity fundraiser but this is a community arts project. We plan to display the fish for as long as possible, hopefully for years to come," said Townsend, arts council board member.

Rita Halbrook, a painter for 25 years and handmade paper artist, crafted the "Blues Cat" complete with a handmade hat and guitar representative of "all the bluesmen of Mississippi" and reminiscent, she says, of Boogelon and Belzoni's own Pinetop Perkins.

In addition to up-and-coming artist Joy Barret, another hidden talent will be revealed due to the work of schoolteachers and healthcare workers alike. They've jumped in with so much creativity that one could not easily discern amateurs from seasoned professionals. And unlike other cities where the artists are paid, the catfish artists volunteered their time and put in many long hours.