Renovated Ocean Springs Community Center reopens

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - It took half million dollars to give the Ocean Springs Community Center, and its priceless Walter Anderson murals, a facelift. But after seven months, the work is finally done.

Outside, the community center looks much the same. Inside is where you see the real difference. New flooring, new lighting, a new ceiling, and new, protective guard rails have been installed.

Recently, the world famous Walter Anderson murals on the Community Center's walls have shown their age: all 60 years. Ocean Springs Grants Administrator Carolyn Martin helped oversee the restoration of the priceless artwork.

"It was a very methodical, hand done cleaning method to make sure you get out all the dirt without harming the paint," Martin said. "Then she had to go back through and repair anything that was broken.  We had a lot of flaking plaster and things like that."

The murals, having been repaired and re-touched, are now worth more than $27 million.  Because of that, new restrictions are in place when the public uses this facility.

"The capacity amount has lessened because of the new railing system that was put in to protect the murals," Deputy City Clerk Karen Kennedy said. "There are no chocolate fountains allowed, no red wine or red punch, no cooking in the facility, although we do have a prep area. You cannot have balloons in there."

The Walter Anderson Museum of Art is next door, and shares a common entrance with the Community Center. Having it open once again is good for business.

"It's extremely important because every day when people come in here, they actually ask if they can see the Community Center," Museum Register Ligia Romer said. "And when we were finally able to say again, yes, they could see it, they were all elated."

Most of the money for the renovation project came in the form of grants from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, along with a grant from the National Park Service.  The city also spent about $100,000 on the project.

Here's one other interesting fact: Back in 1951, Walter Anderson did the murals as a gift to the city. He was paid just one dollar for the work.

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