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Inside Double Decker

Meet the Double Decker poster artist and get a sneak peek at some  outstanding 2024 vendors as well as a look behind the music.



Written by Leslie Criss | Photos Contributed


Sunny days with occasional after-noon rain showers. The return of bees, butterflies and baseball. The beginning of festival season in the South. On the Square in Oxford, one of the most anticipated harbingers of spring is the annual Double Decker Arts Festival.


The festival was originally inspired by the bright red double-decker bus the city got from England in 1994. In its early years, musicians set up stage in the bed of an old pickup. Known for two days packed with music, art and food, the Double Decker Arts Festival draws thousands of festivalgoers from all over the southeast.


This year’s festival is slated for Friday, April 26, and Saturday, April 27, with more than 100 artists set up around the Square Saturday from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. toshow an array of creative works, from painting to pottery, sculpture to photography, jewelry to woodworking and more.


Lee Ann Stubbs, Double Decker Arts Festival coordinator with Visit Oxford, offered us a small sampling of the artists who will showcase their work this year. Read on for more about those featured participants.


The face of Double Decker is the annual poster, selected each year from a number of submitted entries. Here, you’ll meet Oxford’s own Jules Mikell, the creator of year’s poster.

And one thing everyone is sure to talk about before and after the festival is the music. Keep reading for Scott Caradine’s perspective on how this year’s lineup was selected and what to expect.


POSTER GIRL


Jules Mikell finds ideas and inspiration for this year’s festival poster in ’70s wallpaper, Beatles album covers and her hometown.


Oxford native Jules Mikell was elated when she learned her submission for the 2024 Double Decker Arts Festival poster art contest had been selected. As the winner, her design is the official poster for this year’s festival and will also grace T-shirts. Mikell will also have a booth from which she will show and sell her art.


The first person she called after hearing the good news was her sister Virginia, an art teacher at Lafayette High School.


“She is the reason I knew about the competition,” Mikell said. “She texted me and told me I needed to enter. The second person I called was Al, a co-worker and close friend who is such a strong supporter and kind human.”



Mikell is appreciative of the encouragement and support she’s had since being selected for her poster design. One friend has begun calling her Miss Double Decker since the announcement was made.


It’s not the first time Mikell, 24, has been recognized for her artistic abilities. When she was in first grade, students in grades K through 2 were called upon to submit drawings for a T-shirt design based on the theme “Wild About Learning.” Mikell’s submission featured an elephant, a lion and a trio of monkeys reading or holding a pencil. She won. The prize? A lot of art supplies she shared with her friends.


“I got so excited,” Mikell said. “It was announced on the intercom.”


A senior elementary education major at Ole Miss, Mikell’s art talent is natural. She took a few drawing workshops during the summers at Delta State University, and in high school she took art electives.


“Mostly, I’ve taken art education classes that show how to teach art to students,” Mikell said.

Mikell’s preferred art mediums are digital and acrylic painting. She also is a fan of pointillism and impressionism.


“With digital art, you’re still physically drawing,” Mikell explained. “It just puts it on a computer screen. It makes it more shareable. Digital is also a lot more forgiving than traditional painting.


In a traditional painting, you might have to figure out how to cover up yellow paint that you don’t want on the canvas. With digital, you can just hit ‘undo.’”


Mikell’s inspiration and ideas for the Double Decker poster came from quite an interesting place — she looked at 1970s wallpaper for pattern ideas. She also was inspired by art the Beatles used for album cover art. And she consulted Google.


“I Googled Oxford, Mississippi,” she said. “I was so excited to see the third image on Google was Square Books, my favorite place I’ve ever worked. To describe the poster, I’d say it is retro-inspired, psychedelic and vibrant.”


Mikell’s sister was the first person to catch a glimpse of what her younger sister was planning for the poster.


“When I finished my first rough sketch of the design, I sent it to my sister,” Mikell said. “She sent back a message, ‘Oh, my gosh. You have to win.’ I feel I underestimate myself, so her support really contributed to my confidence. We are fans of each other.


“When I was 9 and she was 18, I remember wanting to be just like her. I think that’s a part of why I love and do art.”


ABOUT THE ARTISTS


Makers of myriad mediums of art gather on Oxford’s Square for this beloved festival.


Sarah Godwin

Oxford artist Sarah Godwin did not set out to be a full-time artist. It’s just how things ended up unfolding. She received a journalism degree from Ole Miss in 2018 and later received her real estate license. But art remained a part of her life.


“Art was my side hustle in college,” Godwin said. “Doing it full time was not necessarily my plan, but the Lord had in mind for me to do just that.”



Long a lover of art, Godwin said it became her favorite subject in second grade. In high school, she took all the art electives available. Godwin’s medium of choice is watercolor.

Godwin wakes daily at 5 a.m., has coffee and reads, then begins painting by 7 and stops around noon.


There’s more to running her own business than creating the art she sells. She also packages, ships, inventories and corresponds with customers.


Her inspiration for paintings comes from landscapes, animals, scenes around the South and beyond.


“A lot of people look at my paintings and have said they look peaceful, calm, happy,” said the 27-year-old artist. “I love that. I try to paint as an overflow of my soul. That’s what I try to communicate.”


Alain Kabore

This will be the second time Alain Kabore showcases handwoven baskets and fans and hand-carved Nativity scenes at Double Decker. He’s not the creator but is the bridge connecting Mississippians to artists in Burkina Faso, West Africa.



Kabore, a native of Burkina Faso, has lived in Philadelphia, Mississippi, 20 years with his wife and two children. The people of his village once sold their work to tourists, but because of unrest, there is no more tourism. So for the past 12 years, they’ve sent their work to Kabore, who sells it and sends the money back to the artists so they can feed their families.


Kabore flexes his creative muscles by suggesting items that might be popular (such as Ole Miss blue-colored baskets) and getting get the baskets ready for sale.


“The baskets are very flexible,” he said. “When they are shipped, they are all folded up. When they arrive, I soak them in water and then reshape them.”


John Walrod

John Walrod, who has lived on the Mississippi Gulf Coast since 1978, is an assemblage artist who has participated in Double Decker since 2017.



“It’s called 4D assemblage art,” Walrod said. “It consists of 3D sculpture using antique and vintage objects — where the fourth dimension is time, created by the patina, oxidation, history and emotional attachments of each old object.”


The process begins with collecting, so Walrod is ever on the lookout at flea markets, antiques stores, yard sales and junk yards. Next, he formulates the art idea. The third step is composition, the most difficult part, Walrod said.


Waldrod connects the objects using rivets, fasteners and adhesives; his materials include salvaged wood, metal and glass. He’s taken 1950s-era kitchen mixers and turned them into spaceships. He’s transformed 100-year-old Art Deco-style toasters into animals and robots.


“People have a variety of memories and emotional connections to these old objects,”he said. “I love it when folks light up and smile upon seeing my work.”



Kabore, a native of Burkina Faso, has lived in Philadelphia, Mississippi, 20 years with his wife and two children. The people of his village once sold their work to tourists, but because of unrest, there is no more tourism. So for the past 12 years, they’ve sent their work to Kabore, who sells it and sends the money back to the artists so they can feed their families.


Kabore flexes his creative muscles by suggesting items that might be popular (such as Ole Miss blue-colored baskets) and getting get the baskets ready for sale.


“The baskets are very flexible,” he said. “When they are shipped, they are all folded up. When they arrive, I soak them in water and then reshape them.”


Sam Albritton Jr.

Sam Albritton Jr. from south Mississippi is an accountant by profession. A five-day hike on the Appalachian Trail in 2016 with his daughter Mamie took a toll on his knees.



A suggestion from his friend and mentor, Mickey Klein, 98 at the time, helped Albritton’s knees: Wear a copper bracelet.


Later, he was working on an old Jubilee tractor and noticed the copper coil from the starter. He took a bit of copper into his shop and hammered out a bracelet for himself.


“Thirty days later, it dawned on me my knees were not hurting,” he said. “I’ve worn the bracelet in honor of Mickey ever since.”


And he makes copper bracelets for others. “I was giving away 50 or 60 (to clients) every tax season,” he said. “I learned how to make more artsy bracelets ... Now, clients and others keep me supplied with copper. It’s amazing.”

 

THE SOUNDS OF DOUBLE DECKER


As always, this year’s double decker music lineup promises something for everyone.


The impressive lineup of music makers, whose sounds cover a diversity of genres, doesn’t just magically show up at the annual Double Decker Arts Festival. A lot of time and thought is required.


Just ask Proud Larry’s owner, Scott Caradine. He’s been the talent buyer for the festival since 2018. The stage is set for this month’s festival, but Caradine’s responsibility for next year’s Double Decker has already begun.


“It’s a year-long job,” he said. “Notes about the 2025 Double Decker are on my computer now.”



Here’s how the lengthy process works, according to Caradine: He gathers ideas for potential artists to include in the festival and discusses options with Visit Oxford director, Kinney Ferris, and Double Decker coordinator, Lee Ann Stubbs. Together, a decision is made regarding what musicians they wish to bring to the festival.


“We consider such things as: if they fit the budget, if they make sense of the Double Decker vibe and current relevance to the national, Southern and Oxford music scene,” Caradine said. “We work well together. These guys have been putting together a great festival since long before I came on board.”


From the notes on his computer for 2025, Caradine will begin this summer contacting agents from the top agency houses to find out who might be available and is a good fit. By August, he will send out offers — for headliners first.


“It may take a month for a confirmation or a pass,” he said. “So, the offer is sent, and we wait. Ideally, the whole lineup falls into place by Christmas break.”


Double Decker Friday nights run high to country music; Saturday nights are more Americana or even world music. And perhaps a bit of blues.


“I’m thrilled with this year’s lineup,” Caradine said. “We have two awesome headliners.”

Flatland Cavalry is on tap Friday, April 26; the headliner Saturday, April 27 is Brittany Howard.


“Flatland is a band that will really resonate with country music fans in the area, and college students,” Caradine said. “And Brittany Howard, former leader of the Alabama Shakes, with her solo stuff, does an incredible live show.


“Her fans will be thrilled. And those who aren’t familiar with her will leave saying, ‘Holy cow, we just saw the most amazing show.’ She will make a lot of fans.”


The music lineup also includes two local bands playing Saturday.


“We haven’t had Oxford music in a long time,” he said. “Both Charlie Mars and Bass Drum of Death will have a big draw. And Kingfish. He’s had a great year. He doesn’t play in Mississippi a whole lot anymore. People will love getting to see him. I think we’ve got a lineup folks will like.”


The Music Lineup

FRIDAY, APRIL 26

Grace Bowers, 6 p.m.

Conner Smith, 7:30 p.m.

Flatland Cavalry, 9 p.m.

 

SATURDAY, APRIL 27

Kenny Brown, 10 a.m.

Billy Allen and The Pollies, 11:30 a.m.

Jaime Wyatt, 1 p.m.

Bass Drum of Death, 2:30 p.m.

Charlie Mars, 4 p.m.

Neal Francis, 5:30 p.m.

Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, 7 p.m.

Brittany Howard, 8:30 p.m.

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