Doug Jackson

Doug Jackson

Roanoke’s new arts and culture coordinator turns out to be a familiar figure in the valley’s arts community. Doug Jackson was involved with the Roanoke Arts Commission for more than a decade, including a stint as chairman.

“The work that I’m really interested in is how we use arts and culture to solidify and reinforce our community,” he said. He noted that the city’s arts and culture plan has a goal of furthering social equity throughout Roanoke’s diverse populace. “I think arts and culture is a really meaningful starting point for engaging neighborhoods. It helps them put their fingerprint on the world around them.”

He replaces Susan Jennings, who originated the part-time position and held it for 13 years. She retired in July.

A Delaware native, Jackson, 51, came to Roanoke in 2004 to earn his MFA in creative writing at Hollins University. “When I graduated from Hollins, the first thing I did was apply to be on the arts commission. In fact, I took Susan’s position on the commission when she stepped into the staff position,” he said. “It was a great way to dig in, really get to know the community, get involved.”

The arts commission oversees the public art program and provides guidance to city council on how to allocate arts funding. Jackson was so determined to stay involved in promoting the arts in Roanoke that in early 2017, after he had served the maximum allowable number of terms on the commission, he founded The Book City Roanoke blog profiles and promotes Roanoke Valley authors using print interviews and audio podcasts, with charming portraits of every interview subject rendered in a black-and-white paper cutout that Jackson makes himself.

“I kept saying to myself, I want to live in a community that values books and literature and literacy. We’ve got so much here. It was just a way to pull it all together and kind of celebrate it,” he said.

Jackson writes fiction and has had short stories published. He ultimately plans to link the stories into a mosaic novel.

Before coming to Hollins, he applied his master’s degree in urban and regional planning by working for five years at a nonprofit in California focused on conservation of agricultural land through economic development and downtown investments. “I took a break to go to Hollins and then got back into this world after graduating.”

In his day job, he works as a community coach for the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. He described his job as creating strategies for how Southwest Virginia can best use its assets that cannot be outsourced. “It’s cultural heritage, it’s traditional music, it’s outdoor recreation opportunities.”

Even with his full-time state job and part-time local government job, he’s continuing to add to Book City Roanoke and planning a second season of podcasts. “I feel like I’m, in a way, shepherding something for the community.”

One of the first projects he will help implement will place art under the Memorial Avenue Bridge in Southwest Roanoke.

Taubman calls for entries

The Taubman Museum of Art has put out a call for entries for its second triennial juried arts exhibition. Called “Homeward Bound,” the show is open to all Virginia artists 18 and older.

The show’s judge will be Nandini Makrandi, chief curator of the Hunter Museum of American Art in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The first-place award is a solo show in the museum, with a second-place prize of $700 and a third-place prize of $500. Up to three artworks created within the last three years can be submitted for consideration, along with a $40 entry fee. Application deadline is Dec. 13.

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Mike Allen covers government happenings in Franklin County and Botetourt County for The Roanoke Times and also writes the weekly Arts & Extras column.

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