New Miss. Museum of Art opens in arts pavilion

Published 4:01 pm Friday, June 8, 2007

The newly renovated and relocated Mississippi Museum of Art takes patrons on a tour of the state by way of a permanent collection highlighted with quotes from famous Mississippians.

Gov. Haley Barbour and museum officials cut a ceremonial ribbon Thursday formally opening the downtown Jackson facility now located next to its former home. The museum officially opens to the public Saturday.

The $14 million renovation took less than a year. The new museum is 54,000 square feet, almost double the size of the previous museum.

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Director Betsy Bradley said the focus is on keeping patrons comfortable. Bradley said the museum worked with designers to create an environment that brings patrons and the exhibits together, and hopefully bring visitors back for more.

“We want ya’ll to hang out here,” she said.

The museum’s permanent collection guides visitors through the story of Mississippi and its art. Quotations from the likes of B.B. King, Eudora Welty and William Faulkner are printed above canvases depicting the Delta, the Gulf Coast, cotton and music.

“There are quotations above the art … that really bring the art to life and put it into context in Mississippi’s history and the richness of Mississippi’s culture,” said Laurie Smith, host of TLC’s “Trading Spaces” and a member of the museum’s board of trustees.

Tables and chairs throughout the family areas encourage groups to sit and participate in some of the exhibit’s interactive elements.

One such section asks visitors to listen to music playing in the background and create a work of art inspired by it. An exercise inspired by a Hurricane Katrina-themed section focuses on changes, with patrons writing on an index card what has changed in their hometown then placing it on a magnetized board for others to view.

Barbour described the museum as “great family entertainment.”

“One of the reasons we have museums like this is for children to learn,” Barbour said.

In addition to the permanent collection, the museum will unveil Saturday the exhibit “Between God and Man: Angels in Italian Art” featuring more than 100 works from private collectors and museums in Italy put to together by Dr. Francesco Buranelli, the director general of the Vatican Museums.

The Mississippi museum has had a partnership since 1978 with the city of Jackson to operate rent-free at its old location next to Thalia Maria Auditorium. Officials announced in 2005 that the city and museum entered into an agreement to move the museum to the nearby Mississippi Arts Pavilion with a 10-year lease.

In 2004, the pavilion hosted the Glory of Baroque Dresden exhibit in 2004. Throughout the years, it has hosted art and cultural exhibits including Russian, French, Spanish and German treasures.

The new location places the museum next to the construction of the Capitol City Convention Center, a possible spark to development in the Jackson area.

“For all of us in Mississippi, Jackson matters,” Barbour said.

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