Arts center eyes design firms

By By Erin Hilsabeck / staff writer
June 17, 2004
Plans for a $55 million Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center at Bonita Lakes could take another step next month with the selection of an architectural design firm.
Earlier this month, the last of 19 firms met with directors of the center, which is planned to showcase artistic talents of Mississippi entertainers. The prospective design teams that submitted plans came from across the country, including Miami, Washington, D.C., and California.
The board of directors will name its three top choices in early July, then begin budgetary negotiations, Charlotte Tabereaux, executive director of the center, told the Kiwanis Club of Meridian on Wednesday.
The site designated for the 175-acre center is the Bonita Lakes area of Meridian. Tabereaux said she expects the center to be complete in five or six years, depending on funding.
The Legislature established the arts center in 2001 as the Southern Arts and Entertainment Center, but the center's board opted to do business as the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center. Tabereaux became director in March and has since been busy trying to raise funds.
Plans for the center include an outdoor amphitheater, an indoor concert hall, performance spaces and studios, a hall of fame, a Choctaw Cultural Center and an artists-in-residence village.
Wanda Grabert, executive director of the Meridian-Lauderdale County Tourism Bureau, said she finds herself mesmerized by the plans for the center.
The center would give Meridian significant exposure, and would have many spinoff benefits like educational opportunities, Grabert said.
The board of directors also put together an honorary committee of Mississippi's best known artists and entertainers. Lauderdale County-born and Emmy Award-winning actress Sela Ward chairs the committee that also includes actor Morgan Freeman, writer John Grisham, blues legend B.B. King and rocker Jimmy Buffett, among others, Tabereaux said.

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