Fall Feast for the Arts: Griot Fall Fundraiser

As we reflected on the mission of Griot Arts and planned for our annual Fall Fundraiser, we wanted to bring wonderful art, music, and food to our community while giving more people an opportunity to meet our amazing students and learn about what God is doing at Griot.  We didn’t just want to have a fundraiser, we wanted to bless and encourage our community with a magical night and inspire them through seeing our amazing teenagers “create some good” in Clarksdale and not only “be the change”, but start to lead the change.  God answered that prayer abundantly with perfect weather, talented chefs, faithful volunteers, and performances from our amazing Griot students. Our first ever “Fall Feast for the Arts” was a wonderful evening as well as a successful fundraiser and we cannot say thank you enough to all of the people in this community that support us!

Thursday October 22nd, over 100 people gathered on the patio behind Oxbow Restaurant in downtown Clarksdale for a culinary delight along with great entertainment and encouraging conversation with griot parents, staff, students, and supporters. Guests were greeted by tables draped in white tablecloths and topped with fall vegetables, flickering candles and garlands of greenery, all bearing the signature touch of floral designer Erica Hall. In addition, the Oxbow Guesthouse held 18 fabulous items for the silent auction! Regional artists donated many forms of art including original paintings, amazing prints, impressive drawings, fantastic photography and one of a kind hand thrown pottery. Treats to purchase included a crawfish boil, hand-made macaroons, hand-made Kahlua Fudge from the Delta, and a basket overflowing with wonderful goodies from Heaton Pecans. Other auction items included a copy of a recently released historical art history novel, a handmade coffee table, oriental rugs, one week vacations at a condo in Florida, and a getaway to the fantastic Alluvian Hotel in Greenwood! Griot students walked around with trays of appetizers they had made in cooking class, and helped to serve the gourmet meal with elegance and professionalism.

Griot Youth Program’s Mission is to create a community of students who are actively engaged in making their community a better place through the arts and community service. We do this through excellent teaching in various arts mediums, and emphasis on academics, and a thriving mentoring program. Our students have grown as artists, people, and leaders. Griot students delighted the crowd with original songs, Griot Folk Band and Rock Band performances and original poetry.

Dinner was a collaboration with Chef Hayden Hall of Oxbow, Chef Alan Johnson of Rust and Chef Meri Tehnet of Yazoo Pass. Johnson's fall salad of fresh, crisp mixed greens with toasted Indianola, MS pecans, crisp apples and goat cheese tossed with Holden's Fire Lake Balsamic Vinaigrette was the first course. Chef Hayden's beef and pork polpette, brown butter braised brussel sprouts with percorina and cremini mushroom over ragout creamy polenta was a delight to the palate! Chef & Meri's finale to the gourmet farm to table dinner was the diners' choice of Mascarpone gingerbread torte, pumpkin tartes with chantilly cream or cocoon cookies with Sweet Magnolia Ice Cream!

The event raised $20,000 for Griot. Funds are used to pay teachers and staff, provide supplies for the classes and to provide space for the program. Volunteers from across the community assist Griot as tutors, teachers, mentors, and by providing snacks every day for 25 hungry junior high and high school age students! 

Cali Larson Noland is founder and Executive Director of Griot and Emily Wisseman is the Youth Program Director.  Griot is a 501 (c)(3) not for profit charitable organization registered in the state of Mississippi. A volunteer 13-member board of directors provide guidance and direction for the staff. All donations are tax deductible. If you were not able to attend "Fall Feast for the Arts" you may make a difference in the lives of students with a contribution to Griot by mail, online at www.griotarts.com and in person at 278 Sunflower Street is downtown Clarksdale.

An enormous thank you is just not enough to express our sincere appreciation to all of our supporters, our helpers and our believers! Each of you touch Griot in your own unique way and make a contribution to the success of our program and we thank God each day for every one of you!


  1. I'm sorry to have missed this! Keep up the good work.

    Paige Daugherty

    1. Thank you Paige!

      We have a lot going on throughout the year, so of course we'll see you at our next event!