Ohr Museum Officials Say Without Bond Construction Delayed

On Tuesday the Biloxi City Council is expected to decide on a five million dollar bond to help construct the new Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art. Museum officials want to open the museum in 2004, but they say they haven't raised enough money to keep construction on schedule. Some council members have already told WLOX that they are not sure whether they will support the bond. Officials at the museum say the importance of George Ohr's work is something that Coast resident sometimes take for granted.

"It's in our own backyard, and it becomes real second nature to us," said Board of Trustees president Adele Lyons "We need to make sure that we understand that this can really put Biloxi and the coast on the map as a cultural icon for the United States."

So far fundraising efforts have only brought in about half of the 16 million dollars needed to build the new museum. If city leaders okay five million dollars in bonds, museum officials promise the results would benefit everyone through infrastructure improvements, lower property taxes, and jobs. If the council rejects the bond, construction of the new Ohr O'Keefe Museum would be delayed.

Museum director Marjorie Gowdy said "I'm sure at least a year possible longer and it would delay the entire the process. This is the brink of excitement and enthusiasm about the project so we want to grab it now and start building and start moving forward."

Gowdy says fundraising efforts will continue no matter what the city council decides. A no vote means, they'll have to work even harder to make a new home for George Ohr's work a reality. The museum's director says that if the 5 million dollar bond is passed, the Board of Trustees have pledged to repay a quarter of the money the first year the new museum opens.

by Danielle Thomas