Arts Center goes to governor

By By Ben Alexander/The Meridian Star
March 16, 2001
A bill designating Meridian as the site for the Southern Arts and Entertainment Center passed the Mississippi Senate Thursday and will make its way to Gov. Ronnie Musgrove's desk sometime next week.
By a 52-0 vote, the Senate unanimously approved the amended version of the bill. Earlier this month the House voted to amend the original Senate version of the bill, which took operational control of the center from the Department of Parks, Wildlife and Fisheries and transferred it to the Department of Finance and Administration.
Emmy-winning actress and Meridian native Sela Ward said being designated the site for the center would allow Meridian the privilege to show what sort of artistic talent Mississippi produces.
Ward, who was in Jackson several weeks ago to lobby lawmakers to pass the bill designating Meridian the site for the center, said she could think of no better place than Meridian's Bonita Lakes to house the center.
Once completed, the art center will consist of a conference center, performing arts theater, amphitheater and artists' village. The center will also conduct ongoing events, such as induction into an arts and entertainment hall of fame, seminars, workshops and demonstrations by guest artists.
Ward noted the community-wide effort which helped make Meridian the designation for the center.
Ward said particularly that Mayor John Robert Smith played a vital role in landing the center because he never gave up on the idea that it belonged in Meridian.
Smith could not immediately be reached for comment.
Wade Jones, president of the East Mississippi Business Development Corporation, said the designation of the center in Meridian showed the city was gaining stature throughout the state.
Ben Alexander is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at