- Eudora Welty House and Garden
Docents and staff welcomed over 6,000 visitors during the 2017 calendar year, an increase of 7% over the previous year. I attribute the rise to very strong school group attendance and to other major events that take place during the spring including the Bettye Jolly Lecture, Welty’s birthday celebration, the Scholastic Awards Ceremony, and the annual plant sale. Our December Candlelight open house, which featured a clerihew contest this year at the suggestion of Welty archivist Betty Uzman, was also well-attended.
Over 1,300 of those who visited were students or other youth who came to us in 96 group contexts. This was a 37% increase over 2016. Most were traditional students from schools, but some were Girl Scouts, summer camp attendees, homeschooling groups, day cares, and so forth. Of particular note was an enthusiastic and playful visit on Welty’s birthday by over ninety second and third graders from her grammar school alma mater, still located kitty-corner from Welty’s birthplace home on Congress Street. It was known as Jefferson Davis Grammar School during Welty’s tenure, later becoming Davis Magnet International Baccalaureate (IB) Elementary. The city school board voted to change the name to Barack Obama Magnet IB Elementary School late last year. The students delighted in seeing the house and grounds of one of their school’s most accomplished alums. They enjoyed birthday cake and seeing the cards they had made for Welty’s birthday festively strung along the arches of the side porch at Welty’s home; the students made them during staff visits to the school in the two weeks prior to April 13th. [End Page 163]
Just fewer than 2,000 visitors attended 20 on-site events/programs during the 2017 calendar year. In addition to those listed above, we continue our quarterly book-signings in partnership with Lemuria Books; author Gin Phillips came to us in July for Fierce Kingdom and Pulitzer-Prize and National Books Critics Circle Award-winning author Jennifer Egan signed Manhattan Beach for us in October. This was her only stop in Mississippi. The Education and Visitors Center was filled, and, to our surprise, a graduate creative writing class had driven up from the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. Eagan graciously held an impromptu workshop with them after the book signing and reception. Charles Frazier (Cold Mountain) joined us on April 26 to discuss his latest novel, Varina.
We produced the second “Jane Austen in the Welty Garden Mini Film Series” during the months of September and October, screening Sense and Sensibility, Becoming Jane, and Love and Friendship. Carolyn Brown continues as our content expert, and we expect to take the series into its third and final season next fall with Persuasion, Belle, and Austenland. The series is funded by the Mississippi Humanities Council and done in partnership with the Mississippi Region of the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) and Crossroads Film Society. During this second season, we moved the screenings from the Welty side yard (also called the Camellia Room) to the large front lawn in front of the house to better accommodate our audience. Crossroads also purchased a larger movie screen for the series.
In January we partnered with the Eudora Welty Foundation on a very special book signing to celebrate the University Press of Mississippi’s publication of the long-awaited biography on Mississippi’s first conservationist, Fannye Cook. Readers of the Eudora Welty Review may know that Cook, and at times members of her family, boarded in the Welty home between the late 1930s and 1955. Cook founded what would become the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks in addition to the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science. Another full house was treated to a captivating night with the book’s editors, a first-rate impersonation of Miss Cook by Cathy Shropshire, and a reading by Suzanne Marrs of letters Welty wrote to friends about Cook’s antics and accomplishments. Capping the evening was a generous reception and a tour of the rooms in the Welty house that had been occupied by Cook. (In this issue of EWR, see Cathy...