Extended Story: Jackson Co. wants large mural back in Pascagoula

Published 11:32 pm Thursday, May 28, 2009

Jackson County leaders are trying to return a large mural that was moved from Pascagoula to Ocean Springs for safe keeping after Hurricane Katrina.

James McConnell “Mac” Anderson’s “Singing River Scene” mural has been hanging in Ocean Springs’ Mary C. O’Keefe Art and Cultural Center since it had to be removed from the flooded county courthouse.

Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran said she’s OK with returning it, but the county needs to pay to have it professionally moved and have the walls of the center repaired — at an estimated cost of $2,000.

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“We’re happy to give it back,” Moran said this week. “we would have liked, of course, for them to remain at the Mary C..”

She said the important thing is that the mural is featured in a prominent civic place so the people of Jackson County, who own it, can see it.

Moran said the large 1959 piece painted on plywood needs to be professionally restored as well, and hopes to find a grant to help with that.

Supervisor John McKay said he thought that the cultural center was a better venue for the piece.

“I think it would be more appreciated in the surroundings of the Mary C,” McKay said.

Moran and members of the painter’s family have said they hope the museum will be given a high-quality copy of the mural.

The artwork was originally commissioned and paid for by the American Legion Post 160 in Pascagoula. Anderson died in 1997.

It originally was placed in the lobby of Singing River Hospital until it was removed during a redecoration. It was stored for more than 18 years until it was discovered, rescued and moved to a jewelry store in Pascagoula.

Pascagoula’s Historic Preservation Commission, the Jackson County Historical Society, businesses and industry paid $6,000 to have it restored. The mural was moved to a new wing of the county courthouse in 2000.

Katrina flooded the courthouse and officials asked Anderson’s daughter to take the mural for safe keeping. It wound up at the Mary C. O’Keefe, where it was framed in two separate pieces and mounted on the walls of a hall at the top of the stairwells.