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Bricks and mortar' grants to Wechsler, MLT only part of story

By Staff
Dec. 30, 2001
Grants awarded through the Mississippi Arts Commission could help solve some short-term problems at two Meridian centers of culture and entertainment  Meridian Little Theatre and Wechsler Community Arts Center. The Wechsler Community Arts Center will get $37,000 to help renovate what was the state's first brick public school for African-Americans. The Meridian Little Theatre will get $42,000 to help pay for a new roof and a new sound booth for musical productions.
But the grants for physical repairs and renovation tell only part of the story. They will fund only 60 percent of the projects' costs, meaning the rest of the money has to come from the local community.
Jimmy Pigford, the Meridian Little Theatre's artistic director, said MLT's roof has been patched repeatedly but still leaks when it rains. The Wechsler Community Arts Center, built in 1894 as the state's first brick public school for black students, is owned by the Wechsler Community Arts Foundation and is used for community arts programs. Jessie Brewster of Meridian, president of the Wechsler Community Arts Foundation, said plans call for adding central heat and air conditioning to the building's auditorium, maybe even a museum to house memorabilia and artifacts from the city's predominantly black public schools.
The grants are deeply appreciated, but more public support for these centers could really solve longer term problems and enhance Meridian's reputation as a center for cultural and artistic interests.