MERIDIAN • Everyone has a story, and for many of Mississippi's talented artists, those stories have been told at the Mississippi Arts + Entertainment Experience – or The MAX - in Meridian.

Among the stories currently being told at The Max is that of Tupelo's Ke Francis, an international narrative multi-media artist whose work comprises book arts, printmaking, painting, and sculpture.

Entitled, "Jugline," his exhibit at The MAX features the story of "The Walking Catfish," Francis’ twist on an old southern folktale about a boy who befriends a catfish that can walk.

Francis, a Memphis native, graduated from Tupelo High School and received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Cleveland Art Institute in Sculpture. During a career that spanned more than 40 years, Francis taught in academia as well as presented lectures and workshops all around the world while owning and operating Hoopsnake Press in Tupelo.

The exhibit has 11 lithographs; four large woodcuts; one book, "The Walking Catfish," was was written and illustrated by Francis; and ephemera related to printmaking such as wood blocks, linotype slugs, etc.

According to Exhibitions Curator Stacey Wilson, Francis' work — which runs the gamut of forms — was a perfect fit for the museum.

“This exhibition covers fresh territory because it explores art forms many kids don’t think about as careers, such as illustration and block printing,” Wilson said. “I also love what Francis has created through visual storytelling. 'Jugline' creates an experience rooted in art that teaches us we are all connected and can relate to one another. After all, everyone has lost someone.”

The exhibition was organized by Francis. It's the first time it is on display. The exhibit began in July and ends Nov. 7.

Sponsoring the exhibit is Kim Caron, who owns Caron Gallery in downtown Tupelo. She found out about Francis' exhibit from Shawn Brevard, a Tupeloan who sits on the Max's board of directors.

“That’s me! Let me do it,” Caron said. “Now it’s my time to turn around and do for my community and my state what they’ve done for me.” 

Wilson said that while The MAX is Meridian-based, it serves as a statewide art museum and has changing exhibits that visitors from across Mississippi and the region can enjoy.

"The exhibits are highly interactive with different kiosks giving information, for example, about all of our Hall of Fame inductees that we induct every two years,'' she said. "And being an exhibition space, we also have classrooms, a pottery studio, a drawing studio and a recording studio. We also have a stage and do outdoor performances."

She said The Max "celebrates famous Mississippians in various art forms." Those forms are broken into five categories of cultural arts, including culinary, visual arts, performing arts, music and writing.

"So we have different writers, musicians, etc., in the exhibits," Wilson said. "The museum tells the story of how the state has inspired a lot of these people in their different art forms and how they went on to become successful."

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