Grant Awarded for Arts Center Renovation
A $250,000 grant from the John F. and Lucy Shackelford Charitable Fund through the Community Foundation for Mississippi will be earmarked for renovations to the Arts Center of Mississippi. The Greater Jackson Arts Council (GJAC) made the announcement. The renovations will include permanent public spaces honoring former First Lady of Mississippi Pat Fordice (1935-2007) and Jackson’s first African American Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr.
The project’s fundraising campaign is a volunteer effort under the banner Friends of the Arts Center, a committee led by co-chairs Jennifer Hall and Otha Burton, two community stalwarts with close ties to Fordice and Johnson, respectively.
“At a time when many people across the country are dividing themselves along racial, religious and cultural lines, the Arts Center of Mississippi is doing precisely the opposite,” said Hall, Friends of the Arts Center Steering Committee Co-Chair. “All those lines are blurred here. There’s no polarization. People come together for a common purpose. And those are the values Pat Fordice brought to her work all around the state.”
Dan Fordice spoke on his late mother’s behalf at a press conference announcing the future dedicated space in her honor and was momentarily overcome with emotion as he reflected on the legacy of the First Lady known to her family as simply, “Gran.”
Current Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba spoke with real admiration of Mayor Johnson, not only Jackson’s first African American Mayor upon his first election in 1997 but with three full terms on his resume, the longest-serving leader under the mayor-council form of government.
Johnson himself was in attendance and made a point to underscore the diversity represented in the arts center. Ten arts organizations are housed there, including the USA International Ballet Competition and the International Museum of Muslim Cultures.
Architect Chris Myers led the design team on the renovation plans, which includes upgrades of all interior systems in the public spaces—ceiling, flooring, lighting—as well as a restoration of the staircase back to its original 1970s floating design.
The launch of this new upgrade initiative came with the announcement of a new organization joining the arts center cultural family. Beginning in early 2019, the Millsaps College Theatre Department, under the direction of Peter Freidrich, will be the official company in residence in one of the dedicated second floor gallery spaces.
“It’s an exciting time for the arts center,” said Janet Scott, GJAC executive director. “The contribution from the Community Foundation for Mississippi has been a real juggernaut. Our volunteers are ready to raise the rest of the dollars necessary to make everything happen, and I know the community is going to support this important cause.”