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Plein Air in the News

Ten minutes to Taylor

Delta Magazine
9/01/2008

A few years ago Taylor, Mississippi, was best known as a sleepy hamlet for artists and a place to drive for some darn good fried catfish. Formerly a railroad town with a population of 290 souls, Taylor grew quiet once the railroad left. Over the past 25 years it became a retreat for many writers and artists, and became known as a haven in Lafayette County, outside of the busy college town of Oxford where sculptures, potters, painters and writers created their craft.
Today the village of Taylor, located eight miles outside of Oxford, is still a retreat for artists and a destination for Ole Miss students craving catfish, but also a budding, culturally-rich community garnering national attention. Visitors to Taylor will be astonished by the impressive artwork, funky antiques and good eats that they will no doubt find upon a day trip in the ever-blossoming little town.

Start your visit with breakfast or lunch at Emileigh’s Table. The recently opened restaurant that stemmed from Emileigh’s Bakery, an Oxford favorite, serves breakfast that will make your mouth water before you even get in the door. On Saturdays, a smorgasbord of eggs, cheese grits, quiches, scones and biscuits abounds, with coffee served from funky pottery mugs. The building which houses Emileigh’s is new, but looks as if it was built a hundred years ago with old brick and rustic floors. Tables outside overlook the lawn of the Plein Air Neighborhood, Taylor’s newest project being developed, with the goal to create a pro-arts place for residents to work, dine, shop and live all within walking distance of their home.

Next door is Taylor’s newest shopping destination, Tin Pan Alley Arts & Antiques. Owned by Taylor artists Alice Hammell and Obie Clark, the antiques are mixed with funky furniture that Hammell and her husband have created from salvaged materials. Other antique vendors have booths in the store creating a well-rounded retail space that offers something for every taste.

The small but growing neighborhood is comprised of homes designed with charming old-fashioned front porches, encouraging owners to mingle with their neighbors like the olden days, bike and enjoy the common areas. The lawn in front of Emileigh’s and Tin Pan Alley has already hosted several events including concerts on the stage, picnics and art classes, and provides a place for children to play.

On Saturday mornings the Taylor Farmers’ Market sets up shop—a great place to score some homegrown goods and soak up the local color. Farmers and artists bring in locally-grown produce, breads, crafts and flowers from around Lafayette County. The experience includes local musical talent, too. Be sure to peruse and sample the Taylor Creek Farms booth at the Farmer’s Market and meet Michelle McNally and Jared Spears. Their little backyard organic garden of veggies and flowers is located just a block away from Plein Air and is open for tours through October.

For a taste of Plein Air inside and out, tour the Southern Living Idea House, the first in Mississippi. The home, designed by architect John Tee, is featured as one of their three idea houses this year. A place of inspiration, from the details of the home’s structure down to the Mississippi artwork that fills the home, each room will leave guests thinking of new ways to update their own home’s look, the Southern Living way.

Leaving the Plein Air development, just a block away you’ll find the older portion of town, or Taylor’s main street. One essential stop is Taylor Arts, a gallery owned by artist Christine Schultz and her husband, furniture maker Marc Deloach. The gallery, stationed in an old house across the street from Taylor Grocery is a great location to grab some southern artwork, all created by Lafayette County artists. Opened a decade ago by the couple who wanted a venue to showcase their work and that of their many talented neighbors, the gallery has grown into a destination for those seeking authentic, quality Mississippi art. Many of Alice Hammell’s paintings can be found here, as well as her husband Obie Clark’s colorful pottery. Schultz’s own whimsical paintings jump off the white walls and her husband’s beautifully-crafted furniture made from salvaged wood is scattered throughout the gallery. Their hours of operation are a bit untraditional, but a good bet is to come when Taylor Grocery is open, and you’re sure to find them open!

Behind the gallery, the duo also owns and operates the Big Truck Theater, a venue for local music inside a barn built by Deloach. Here you can catch some local musicians strumming a tune on the bed of an old flat bed truck that Schultz gave to her husband as a fortieth birthday gift. Now a stage, the truck provides a great platform for music, as well as inspiration for the music hall’s name. Big Truck provides exceptional and unique live entertainment, including Forever Plaid, an award-winning Barbershop Quartet, if you’re lucky, and otherwise undiscovered backyard talent from around the area, as well as the house band, The Hot Dangs. Shows are typically the first Saturday night of each month.

Across the street is the catfish house that has long been drawing visitors to Taylor. Every Thursday through Sunday patrons fill the porch of Taylor Grocery waiting to get a table in the rustic old grocery turned catfish house. Known for their fried catfish and fun atmosphere, the restaurant is a favorite destination for Ole Miss students and alums. Most weekends there’s live music. Grab a Sharpie and sign your name on any surface you can find a spot. One thing is certain—you’ll absolutely leave with a full belly. Standing room only patrons of Taylor Grocery browse around the tiny Taylor P.O. Gallery & Gifts, a former post office turned gift shop and gallery, adjacent to the restaurant. Filled with an eclectic mix of local art, as well as some incredible jewelry, Taylor P.O. is also a great place to pick up Taylor-made pottery by artists such as Keith Stewart.
Art, food and music are all part of the Taylor experience—and don’t be surprised if you just may want to live there, too.

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