Food, fun and fine art under the stars at Rowan Oak serves as an annual fundraiser for the University Museum.
Written by Leslie Criss
Photographed by Taylor Square Photography
The University of Mississippi Museum, on University Avenue and 5th Street, is the place to be for those with an interest in history and art, diversity and culture. Whether one’s interest is slight or scholarly, fierce or fleeting, the University Museum will not disappoint.
In addition to the displays inside, both temporary and permanent, the museum operates a pair of historic houses nearby. One, just across University Avenue from the museum, is the Walton-Young House, which housed the Center for the Study of Southern Culture and the Honors College for a time and became a part of the museum in 1997.
The other historic home is Rowan Oak, the home of William Faulkner. Those visiting the museum may take the 3/5-mile trail through Bailey Woods to Rowan Oak. The Bailey Woods Trail is Oxford’s only federally designated National Recreational Trail.
Every fall, the Friends of the UM Museum hosts an annual fundraiser that has, through the years, become a well-attended event for which tickets sell out well before the evening of the event.
The Harvest Supper, created more than a decade ago by the Friends of the UM Museum, is held on the grounds of Rowan Oak. In that decade, the Harvest Supper has raised more than $1.5 million to support the museum’s educational programs, acquisitions and advocacy initiatives. The money raised also supports Rowan Oak and the Walton-Young House.
This year’s event, already sold out, is slated for Oct. 26. Watercolorist Wyatt Waters will be on hand to paint a vignette from the evening which will be available for purchase at the Harvest Supper.
“The casual evening will be held under the stars with lights strewn across the meadows of Rowan Oak where local music, local food and an auction of paintings, sculpture and photographs by well-known regional artists round out the evening,” said Ann Brock, a Friends of the UM Museum board member.
The history of the museum is a storyteller’s dream. It’s been around quite a while, opening as Oxford Art Center on August 24, 1939, thanks to the vision of the late artist, Mary Skipwith Buie.
Buie and her sister, Kate Skipwith, became residents of Oxford when their family relocated from New Orleans after the Civil War. Buie married and moved to Chicago, where she continued to use her artistic talent to paint miniatures while working for Marshall Fields. She returned to Oxford in her senior years and died in 1937.
In Buie’s will, she wished for a museum to be built in Oxford. To make certain her wish was fulfilled, Buie left $30,000, her own art collection and her property on which the museum was to be built. Her sister made sure Buie’s vision became a reality and deeded her own property to the city of Oxford for the museum.
Funding from the Works Project Administration and the city helped breathe life into Buie’s wish, which was called the Mary Buie Museum from 1942 until 1997. The city of Oxford operated the museum until 1974, when it was deeded to Ole Miss.
Through the years, additions and renovations have improved the space for educational endeavors and exhibits, thanks to the annual Harvest Supper.
“The Harvest Supper brings to mind what William Faulkner wrote in ‘Soldier’s Pay,’” Brock said. “‘Stars were golden unicorns neighing unheard through blue meadows.’ If you are lucky enough to attend Harvest Supper, be sure to look up at those ‘golden unicorns,’ and thank your lucky stars you’ve got a seat at a table in the meadows of Rowan Oak.”