Committee looks for arts center funding

By Staff
ENVISIONING THE FUTURE Meridian musician Britt Gully, left, and Paul Ott, chairman of the Southern Arts steering committee, talk Friday after eating lunch with city officials at Bonita Lakes. Photo by Carisa McCain / The Meridian Star
By Fredie Carmichael / staff writer
April 6, 2002
A crystal blue sky, two glistening lakes and towering pines provided the backdrop Friday for the first meeting of the minds behind the proposed Southern Arts and Entertainment Center.
Members of the Southern Arts steering committee met Friday with Meridian city officials and toured Bonita Lakes the site of the proposed multi-million dollar center.
Friday marked the first day the committee officially began working on the project, Ott said. Gov. Ronnie Musgrove signed a bill a year ago declaring Meridian as the site of the future arts complex.
The governor's announcement was the end of a year-long battle over whether the center would be built in Meridian or Jackson.
Meridian seizes
opportunity
Dr. Lester Spell, commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce, said Jackson missed a golden opportunity by not finding a comparable site for the center.
But in the end, Spell said, Meridian was the best place for the proposed center.
Melinda Hood, a committee member from Yazoo City, agreed.
Rolling up
their sleeves
Early plans for the center include a Mississippi Arts Hall of Fame, a conference center, a performing arts theater, an amphitheater and an artists' village.
Committee members, though, said they are still looking for ways to fund the almost $40 million project since the bill naming Meridian as the site made no provisions for state funding support.
On Friday, most of the 13-member committee met with city officials at Union Station in the morning and afternoon to discuss details of the project.
At mid-day, the group gathered under a pavilion near Bonita's upper lake and ate lunch with local elected officials.
There, much of the talk was centered around the main idea of the center: drawing from the Mississippi's rich arts history.

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