Local Art

Published on February 24th, 2021 | by Newt Rayburn


Ronzo Forever: Yoknapawpha Arts Council Unveils Bronze Memorial Plaque for Ron “Ronzo” Shapiro

In honor of the late “Minister of Culture,” Ron Shapiro, a.k.a. “Ronzo,” a new original artwork by Bill Beckwith has been added to the Powerhouse Community Arts Center. Originally scheduled for Mardi Gras, February 16, 2021, but delayed due to the recent snow and ice, a bronze plaque in tribute to Ronzo was unveiled on Tuesday, March 23.

The artwork is based on a picture taken by local photographer Bruce Newman, who lovingly referred to it as “The Bronzo,” and features Shapiro wearing his iconic Mardi Gras-colored jester hat, sunglasses, and his signature grin.

“This is the start. This is not the finish,” said Mike Mitchell, who collaborated with the artists. “Certainly, this is about the spirit of Ron Shapiro.”

Ron Shapiro, a native of St. Louis, Missouri, moved to Oxford in the early 1970s when he landed a job at the federally funded marijuana research facility at the University of Mississippi. An avid film buff, Shapiro ran The Ole Miss Drive-In Theatre and later the legendary Hoka Theatre & Moonlight Café, which was the center for counterculture in Oxford for two decades. After the Hoka closed, Shapiro went on to open The Main Squeeze juice bar and café, and finally The Shelter.

In between his business ventures and world travel, Shapiro ran, albeit unsuccessfully, for Alderman at Large, with the tagline “Throw the Rascals In.”

No doubt a beloved local personality, Shapiro’s memory lives on in many ways. This new sculpture can be viewed, touched, and admired by anyone who visits the Powerhouse, keeping the spirit of Ronzo alive in Oxford.

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About the Author

Newt Rayburn founded THE LOCAL VOICE in March of 2006. Previously, Newt was Editor of PROFANE EXISTENCE in Minneapolis, and Art Director for Ole Miss' LIVING BLUES magazine. Newt won a National Magazine Award in 1999 for his SOUTHERN MUSIC ISSUE with THE OXFORD AMERICAN. A seventh-generation Lafayette County, Mississippian, Newt Rayburn's alter ego—Neuter Cooter—lead the Mississippi band THE COOTERS to Rocknoll Glory across the USA from 1993-2018. Newt is a family man who also is a publisher, photographer, writer, musician, landlord, and Civil War enthusiast.

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