BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - As the ribbon came down and the stairway into the Biloxi Ceramics Center, the newest part of the Ohr O'Keefe Museum of Art, officially opened Saturday.
"It's been a long, long journey here," said the namesake benefactor of the museum Jerry O'Keefe.
He said getting the museum's wheels in motion has been a battle since the beginning.
"We had substantially begun the project when Hurricane Katrina hit and sustained a lot of damage and we had to start all over. So that was big big set back. However, we've come through it and lived through another day... and today is that day," said O'Keefe.
The four story building sits on the west side of the property, overlooking the Mississippi Sound. It's a view that can't be beat.
The structure containing so much art is a masterpiece in itself. It was built around a 300-year-old oak tree. That was part of the architect Frank Gehry's vision, a building that dances with the trees.
But, the new center is about function just as much as form.
"Getting this building online will totally change the focus of this museum and will allow us to reach our mission, which is public involvement and public education," said Board of Trustees President Larry Clark.
Clark said he sees endless opportunity for the center.
"It's so unique in the Southeastern part of the country to have a museum of this stature where the patrons and the visitors can actually come in and make art. It changes your whole appreciation of it."
Clark said the completion of the Ceramics Center means they've now finished five of their six big projects.
"In the next few weeks, we will finish or begin the finishing phase of the pods. This is the Ohr Gallery where the George Ohr collection will be held," said Clark.
And while O'Keefe enjoyed Saturday's grand opening, he's staying focused on the long term goal.
"Well, it's not the complete culmination of the whole project, but it's a giant step forward," said O'Keefe.