by Andi Agnew
Jenny Tate knows that she has a cool job, and she is grateful for it.
“Not only do I work with incredible people and have an awesome boss (Betsy Bradley), but I feel like I learn something every day. At any point, I can get up from my desk and walk around and see some of the most incredible visual art that the state has to offer.”
The Blue Springs, Miss., native has been Chief of Marketing and Development for the Mississippi Museum of Art since 2011. Tate, 29, first came to Jackson to study Communications and Mass Media at Mississippi College. She worked in the “real world” for a while before deciding to continue her education at the University of Southern Mississippi, where she received a master’s in Communication Studies. After graduation, she says , “(I was) open to moving anywhere, but kind of wanted to stay in Mississippi. I applied for a job at the Museum of Art, and it just worked out.”
Tate first met her husband, Richard Ladner, at Mississippi College. “He was way too cool for me then,” she says with a laugh. The two reconnected in 2007 after his stint in the Peace Corps, and they began a long-distance relationship — he in Knoxville, and she in Jackson, then Hattiesburg. Ladner moved to Jackson shortly after Tate accepted the job with the Mississippi Museum of Art in 2011, and the two were married about a year later. “It was a nice little homecoming; that we could finally be in the same town. And it’s funny how things have a way of working out — he’s from south Mississippi, I’m from northeast Mississippi, two very different parts of the state, culturally-speaking, and we just kind of met in the middle in Jackson.”
The couple decided to make their home in Fondren, along with their dog, a black lab mix named Pepper. “We knew we wanted to live in town, and we looked at Belhaven and Northeast Jackson as well, but we wound up falling in love with Fondren,” Tate says.
Her favorite thing about the neighborhood? “The old oak trees — you just don’t find them everywhere, that canopy of trees. I think about it every time I turn onto Hawthorn, how beautiful the trees are. You find that in old, established neighborhoods.”
Tate says she and her husband also enjoy sitting in their front yard and cheering on runners in the various races that wind through Fondren. “The businesses, places to eat, cultural activities at Duling Hall, and things like Fondren After 5 — these all contribute to making the neighborhood a really great place,” Tate says.
Tate wouldn’t be doing her job if she didn’t mention upcoming events at the Museum. “It feels like every night of the week there’s something going on at the museum,” she says. Currently on display is an exhibit of Wyatt Waters’ watercolors, created while Waters and Robert St. John were in Italy doing research for St. John’s latest cookbook, “An Italian Palate.” In the Spring of 2014, there will be two shows in connection with the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer, and Fall 2014 will bring an exhibit of the works of Spanish artist Robert Henri.
The Museum offers many free monthly events, including “Music in the City,” a classical music program presented in partnership with St. Andrews Cathedral, and “Museum After Hours,” which Tate describes as a “happy hour plus art” event geared toward young professionals. A family-friendly favorite is “Screen on the Green,” a monthly free movie presented in the Art Garden — past movies have included “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “Sixteen Candles” and “Moonrise Kingdom.”
Because Fondren is such an arts-friendly neighborhood, it has been an ideal place for Tate and her husband to settle down. She is an enthusiastic supporter of the growth the area has seen in recent years, and looks forward to even more development in the future: “I get really excited when I hear about a new business coming to Fondren, or a new thing happening in Fondren, because I really think this community is something special, and I’m always excited to hear about new things happening here.”
Screen on The Green for Thursday, December 19, is ‘Christmas Vacation’ with Chevy Chase. The event is free and begins at 7pm.