Bateman named SAAC's first executive director

John Bateman has been chosen as the Starkville Area Arts Council's first executive director. His first official day will be Aug. 1. (Submitted photo)
Staff Writer

There will soon be a new face at the helm for the Starkville Area Arts Council

Starkville native John Bateman, 44, has been chosen as the organization's first executive director and his first official day will be Aug. 1.

Bateman was working with students as the script coordinator at Mississippi State University's Summer Scholars On Stage Program in June when he heard about the SAAC's search for an executive director.

Bateman is a 1991 graduate of Starkville High School. After graduation, he attended Ole Miss and moved to Virginia where he earned a degree at Washington and Lee University School of Law.

For 10 years, Bateman worked with private family foundations managing grants and grant money, working with everything from scholarship funds and nonprofit organizations to land conservation and health care-related grants. Though he helped fund organizations, Bateman's job didn't give him the opportunity to see what the money did first-hand.

"What's sad about being on the grant maker side is that you're always at least one step removed from the work being done," Bateman said. "It can be a lot of fun and interesting to help give away money but because of the nature of private family foundations you are still removed from the work that these organizations are doing."

Bateman decided to make a career shift and focus on his passion for writing and the arts. Bateman has written two films, one of which has been produced. Bateman's film "The Bench Project's LOST & FOUND" won the best script award at the 2016 Magnolia Film Festival.

When Bateman came home to Starkville in June to help with the Summer Scholars program, he heard about the opportunity at the SAAC to be on the opposite side of the grant process.

"It's going from the grant maker to an organization that wants to implement programs and do the work," Bateman said. "I get to participate in fulfilling the need that a community has."

One thing the SAAC does is creates grants and helps to fund local artists and local projects.

Bateman feels he can use his background in grant funding to help the SAAC expand and identify more funding opportunities in all of the arts, not just painting and sculpting but also the performing arts and writing.

"One of the things I have seen that I would like to change is that there is an issue of awareness," Bateman said. "The Arts Council has done a lot of work since it formed in 1996, and I don't think a lot of what it has done has been very well-known."

Bateman's goals as executive director are to raise awareness of what the SAAC does in the community and to expand the communication efforts.

Bateman also hopes to help identify the needs that Starkville and Oktibbeha County have and pursue them, as well as help bring more awareness to artists.

"This is an opportunity for me to build a community that I want to live in and to build a community that I want to write in, and I think it will be a lot of fun," Bateman said. "It will be a lot of work, but it will be a lot of fun."