By Bailee Harris
Photo: Robb Smith, also known as Robb Rokk, presents during a session with the DeSoto Arts Institute. (Courtesy photo)
DeSoto Arts Institute (DAI), founded by Robb Smith in 2016, is a 501(C)3 non-profit media arts training organization. DAI focuses on providing exposure, education, and hands-on experience in various creative fields such as film production, video production, screenwriting, acting, music production, and audio production.
Originally known as Film Club at its conception, DAI serves as a hub for the community to learn the art of filmmaking and music production. Recognized for its commitment to family-friendly entertainment, the organization aims to involve the community in the collaborative art of film.
Recently, DAI achieved a significant milestone by being awarded a $110,000 grant from the Mississippi Arts Commission (MAC) for their building expansion. However, DAI must raise an additional $44,000 to access the full amount. This organization is actively seeking public donations in an effort to meet their deadline of March 31, 2024.
Currently, DAI boasts several dedicated spaces, including a podcast studio, a small recording studio, and a foley and audio booth. With the grant from the MAC, DAI hopes to start construction for their building expansion and complete it by September 2024. Not only does DAI hope to expand on projects and space; they also hope to expand their cause and impact more students.
DAI is an integral part of the revitalization process for the west end of Southaven. Schools impacted by DAI included Horn Lake High School, Career Tech West, Southaven High School, and Northpoint Christian School, among others, benefiting thousands of students. This organization offers their services to learners of all ages as well, not just school-aged students.
Smith, Executive Director, explains this by stating, “I would love for people to understand that there is a west end revitalization. The Southpoint building was falling apart, and now they’re revitalizing this building and we’re a part of this…this building is an anchor for the west end district.”
This organization’s focus extends beyond art, incorporating life skills such as respect, professionalism, and self-empowerment.
“A lot of what we’re teaching is basic life skills. Firm handshake, a look in the eye when you shake hands, respect, yes sir, no sir.” Smith continues, “And I teach them too, that, a principal I wish someone would’ve pounded in my head when I was young, is that who owns your future? You do. It’s not going to happen unless you’re pushing for it to happen. You can be bold and respectful at the same time. I don’t think young people are being mentored in that way, so a lot of what we are doing is that.”
There are also other ways to be involved. DAI actively welcomes individuals with diverse skills to contribute as teachers or mentors. This can be within the film industry, or other valuable skills such as welding, painting, sewing, carpentry, etc.
“We’re always looking for people who can teach something we are not teaching, or to bring a higher level of expertise,” Smith shares.
DAI recognizes the intersection of arts and STEM, incorporating technical aspects like color temperatures, intensities, programming, and computer skills into its curriculum.
The diversity of skills that DAI has to offer aids in finding a place for all students. Young people in the community are able to discover gifts that they may have otherwise not known.
To learn more about DeSoto Art Institute’s fundraising efforts and how to donate, click here.
Bailee Harris is a reporter/contributor for DeSoto County News.