Carlton Turner travels the country in his role as a performer, advocate for the arts, lecturer and consultant, but home is Utica, Miss., where he lives with his wife, Brandi, and their three children. Members of his family have lived in that same Hinds County small town for eight generations, and it is there that the Turners founded the Mississippi Center for Cultural Production, which is more often referred to in its shortened form, ‘Sipp Culture.
The Turners created ‘Sipp Culture as a way to foster community development in the small town, which was once a thriving community, but in recent years has seen the loss of its schools, industry and, finally, its grocery store. The grocery’s closing created what is known as a “food desert” in which residents are forced to travel to neighboring towns and counties to purchase food.
‘Sipp Culture seeks to empower the members of the community by re-establishing a sustainable food system through traditional farming methods, and to support and encourage traditional farming among the area’s young people.
While helping provide access to healthy food is a vital part of ‘Sipp Culture’s mission, it is not the entirety of it. The Turners’ goal is to strengthen the community in a more comprehensive way, by supporting cultural development as well as meeting physical needs. One way is through the creation of the Rural Performance/Production Lab. RPPL is an 18-month program in which a select group of artists participate in an on-site residency, receiving coaching and support from ‘Sipp Culture’s team of professional artist advisers as they develop their projects.
Supporting young artists isn’t peripheral to the ‘Sipp Culture mission, it is essential. As the Turners see it, gathering together and sharing stories is the best way to carry our communities into the future, creating safe, healthy hometowns for generations to come.
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