Mississippi gets creative in attracting tourists

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - In this time of economic struggles, Mississippi is looking at outside-the-box ways of bringing more revenue into the state. This weekend the Mary C. O'Keefe Cultural Center is putting on a two day art retreat with the help of a grant from the Mississippi Development Authority.

Pat Odom is hoping to help people discover their artistic passion with her stenciling class. The Art By the Sea retreat also offers an opportunity for participants to try out everything from jewelry making. to working with fused glass so people can see what they're good at.

"It's very eclectic and people like that simply because some students are going to excel in one media where not in another," said Odom. "They're going to be well rounded when they leave because there are so many exciting things going on."

The Mary C. O'Keefe received an MDA Creative Economy grant to put on the retreat.

Retreat Director Anita Nobles-Arguelles said, "I think it's important for MDA and other organizations to look at other possible revenues in the state of Mississippi. Supporting the creative economy feeds the state in two different ways. It feeds our artists and the communities that support the artist by providing a revenue stream for them. It also draws tourism into the state and sets some of our towns up as art communities which means people travel here to take classes and learn new techniques."

A second retreat is planned for late summer. In the meantime,officials are preparing to launch a strong marketing campaign.

"Our first one is kind of a local regional attack but on subsequent Art By The Sea Retreats, we hope to be looking at more of a national audience," said Nobles-Arguelles. "There are tribes that travel all over the country that do these types of retreats. That feeds our tourism, hotels, feeds our restaurants and puts Ocean Springs on the map as an extension of our art community."

Participants enjoyed the chance to explore so many art forms in one backdrop.

"Things I would have never picked up on my own and are just a tiny bit too esoteric to get out of a book or a magazine," said Pat Sharpe, participant.

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