Saturday, May 23, 2009

Meridian Museum of Art

For me, this place was the "liberry" until about age 6 when it became the library.

Click on for larger picture

The Little Museum that could, and did,
By Anne McKee
guest columnist, Meridian Star

The invitation dated October 1970 was simply stated, but loudly proclaimed a victory. The long anticipated dream of an arts center for the city of Meridian was realized in the form of a historic building, once having housed the Meridian Public Library, converted into an elegant center for the Meridian arts community.

The history of the arts community in the Meridian area is rich, and historically longstanding, which resulted with the formation of The Meridian Art League in February 1933. The first exhibition featured works of Charles Le Clair, director of the Arts Department at the University of Alabama, and at this period of time, the exhibitions were held at the Lamar Hotel.

In 1949, The League changed its name to the Meridian Art Association and held its first exhibit, under the new name, on the second floor of Marks Rothenberg Company (now the MSU/Riley Performing Arts Building) in March 1949. The show featured thirty paintings from seventeen New Orleans based artists.

Over the next two decades, the Art Association held exhibits, gallery talks, and workshops around the city at various locations, including the Meridian Public Library, The Strand Theatre, Alex Loeb Department Store, First National Bank, Merchants and Farmers Bank, Sears, and the Broadmoor Shopping Center, but the home for most exhibitions were located at Weidmann Restaurant’s, 1870 Room. The first exhibits in the 1870 room were of the work of Caroline Durieux of New Orleans.

And, finally, with the vacancy of the old Carnegie Library building, resulting from the building of a new Meridian Public Library at its present day location, the time came for the Meridian Art Association to have a permanent home gallery. In January 1968, a meeting was held in the conference room of the Carnegie Library, and with great excitement, plans were discussed to renovate the facility into a haven for the Meridian area artists.

As mentioned above, the original structure housing The Meridian Museum of Art first served as The Meridian Public Library, which was a Carnegie Library completed around 1912/1913, and served the Meridian community until 1966/1967, when the current library was constructed. At the time when Library property became available, in 1968, it was agreed by The City of Meridian to convert the building into the arts center. In December 1968, The Meridian Art Association initiated a drive to raise $10,000.00 seed money, to start the museum, and after many hours of concentrated efforts, by many Meridianites, the grand opening was scheduled for January 1970.

Then, the unthinkable happened; a fire severely damaged the facility less than 30 days before the scheduled grand opening.

The date was December 22, 1969. The fire was extensive.The arts community was devastated. Some even doubted if the building would be reconstructed; but that was not the spirit of Meridian and her people.The Meridian City Council ordered immediate rebuilding of the Museum of Art building and within eight months the rebuilding was complete.

The Meridian Museum of Art, now with over five hundred members, continues to lead the way in the Meridian area, providing artistic opportunities for every age group, with each level of technique and design, while blending the new trends with the old favorites.

No comments: