In March 2022, the Community Foundation for Mississippi announced the largest gift to date from the John and Lucy Shackelford Fund with a gift of $1 million to The Friends of the Planetarium to support the ongoing renovation of the Planetarium. This gift also includes a quarter matching gift from former Jackson Mayor Kane Ditto.
“The Friends of the Planetarium group and its supporters have been instrumental in the development of this project, whose core commitment is delivering on our educational mission directive to students of the state of Mississippi, the City of Jackson and her visitors,” said Planetarium Director, Mike Williams. “Mississippi struggles to produce technology graduates at a rate that keeps up with the number of available STEM jobs in our great state. Mississippi aerospace and technology industries have created jobs that can start at around $70k a year, but those jobs have been difficult to fill with homegrown talent. The new planetarium will use its broad and unique platform to expand access to these opportunities in STEM, and to illuminate the path to these high-paying jobs for all Mississippians. And it’s also going to be extremely cool.”
The project is a keystone initiative of Jackson’s Bicentennial in its continuing efforts to deliver a renewed and revitalized planetarium to the capitol city, state of Mississippi and her visitors. The facility, which first opened in 1979, is the only public planetarium in the State of Mississippi.
A full reimagining of the planetarium is underway with a total redesign of every space and a brand-new atrium addition to tie it all together. The planetarium is working with exhibit designers who have created award-winning exhibits for NASA Kennedy Space Center and National Geographic museums to create a fun and interactive educational experience like none ever seen before in Mississippi, or in any other regional or national planetarium facility.
“Our goal is to share and highlight Mississippi’s rich space science history and to create pride points for Mississippians who may not know what a vital role their state has played in the development of the world’s space program,” said David Lewis, the deputy director of Human and Cultural Services for the City of Jackson. “The Community Foundation for Mississippi has long supported the capital city and state, and this gift further underscores their commitment to the success of the places and people that they serve.”
See a preview of the new Arts Center and Planetarium Atrium below, courtesy of CDFL – Architects + Engineers