Can art draw more customers to downtown Pascagoula?

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Arts on the Avenue is breaking new ground in downtown Pascagoula. Fine arts and art classes, all under one roof.  But it's just not art at play here.

Harry Schmidt is the community development director for the city.

"Instead of having a city office with a storefront that faces on our main downtown thoroughfare, we're putting a semi-commercial venture here that will attract businesses that will support the other businesses around," Schmidt said.

City officials are hoping this venture will mold a new future for downtown, and the art will paint a bright economic picture for the city. Gallery director Karen Joplin has a Masters degree in fine art. After working for the city for 18 years, she returns to her first love.

"It's just a win-win situation all the way around," Joplin said. "I get to reconnect with my degree and with the things I was trained to do years ago, and be able to do my city work as well at the same time."

After seeing the success of other art projects in cities across the coast, and across the country, Schmidt said city officials in Pascagoula felt this would be a natural fit for the downtown area.

"Residents of Pascagoula have repeatedly asked for more things to do in town and a wider range of things to do in town, so we've seen in other areas the huge demand, so we're capitalizing on it here as well."

Next door at the Paradise Deli and Grill, workers get ready for lunch and are hoping to capitalize on a larger customer base the gallery might bring, starting with the Tuesday afternoon grand opening at 4pm.  Vinnie Keim is the owner.

"Our plans are to be open for dinner to feed the folks that are coming down to the grand opening," Keim said. "And if things go well in the future, we may continue to do that."

And that is all that Delmas Avenue businesses can hope for.

Arts on the Avenue is located in a city owned building. The conversion into a galley cost about $52,000, with half of that money coming from the city.

The gallery will be open Monday through Friday from 10am until 4pm. Art and pottery classes will be scheduled at various times during the day and evening.

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