Meridian officially designated as arts site

By By Ben Alexander/The Meridian Star
March 27, 2001
With the stroke of a pen, Gov. Ronnie Musgrove signed a bill Monday officially designating Meridian as the site for the Southern Arts and Entertainment Center.
After more than a year of fighting Jackson and a debunked study by the Stennis Institute over which city was more deserving, Meridian Mayor John Robert Smith says the hard work was worth the effort.
The bill contains no state funding for the project, but Smith said the designation means detailed planning can move forward. Initial plans include a conference center, performing arts theater, amphitheater and artists' village. The center would also conduct ongoing events, such as induction into an arts and entertainment hall of fame, seminars, workshops and demonstrations by guest artists.
Smith said he will soon name a committee to help decide what the center should look like.
After lobbying for the center for months, members of the area's legislative delegation attended the signing ceremony in Musgrove's office.
State Rep. Greg Snowden, R-Meridian, said getting the city designated the site was just the first phase of seeing the project become a reality. The bill doesn't outline any funding for the estimated $35 million project.
Smith said he has already received assurances from other legislative members that they will "aggressively" seek the initial funding for the center next year.
Although Smith is optimistic about state funding next year Snowden says there is no guarantee of funding given the state's current financial crisis.
Ben Alexander is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at balexander@themeridianstar.com.

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