Moss draped oak trees will eventually provide shade for the new Ohr O'Keefe Museum of Art. They sit on land in councilman George Lawrence's ward. "Nobody has a problem with the George Ohr museum," said Lawrence. "I mean it's going to be great, it will be a great economic impact for the city of Biloxi. There's no doubt about that."
What Lawrence and his city council colleagues have been wrestling with is whether Biloxi should approve a $5 million bond to help pay for the museum's construction. You see the bond idea came up at a time when city budget debates focused on road and drainage repairs.
According to Lawrence, "Those are the things you have to address. The citizens need the help right now."
Biloxi mayor A.J. Holloway originally proposed the museum bond issue. "What we're doing is matching what they've raised," the mayor said. "And that would give them the funds to really start in a year-and-a-half or two years from now."
Museum staff members attended the Biloxi city council meeting. They urged the city to stand behind the bond request. So far, the museum has come up with about half of the $16 million it will need to build Frank Gehry's architectural designs.
The museum's chairman of the board is Jerry O'Keefe. The former Biloxi mayor asked for a public hearing to be scheduled in the next few weeks, so the city could see how many people support the project. That's what the city decided to do. "The more information people have," O'Keefe said, "the more intelligently they can decide how they're going to favor this."
Ohr board members believe that their dream of a Mad Potter museum under the oak trees next to Tullis Manor will come alive in 2004.