Old school offers new, cultural education

By David Elliott - bio | email

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - A building on Government Street in Ocean Springs opened as the city's main school in 1927.

"The town grew up around it. It was the school building with K through 12," Eric Zala said. "It became a middle school, then a high school graduating classes as late as 1965."

Eric Zala became director of the Mary C., as it's called, in September of 2008. He has been on a mission to bring cultural events to ocean springs.

"The building was on an endangered buildings list a decade ago. Over the last 10 years, room by room, it's been renovated," Zala said.

It was then moved to the back burner while new schools were built around the city. Then the community decided to give the historic structure a new life, a new purpose.

"A place to socialize and be entertained at a play, a concert or a gallery opening."

Zala has entertained leaders from other cities who want to take a look at what Ocean Springs was able to do with an abandoned school building.

"I've given many tours to folks from other places around the state. They've heard of what we've done with the Mary C. and have a similar vision for their community. They would like to see something like this in their own town."

It's a great example of recycling a historic structure. This Saturday, the Mary C. O'Keefe Cultural Center will show the film "M for Mississippi," a road trip through the birthplace of the blues in the Mississippi Delta.

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