Museum Supporters Lobby For Funding

The new Ohr-O'Keefe art museum represents a long term investment in economic development and cultural education.

That's the message from project supporters as the Biloxi city council considers the request for a $1 million donation.

Supporters say the million dollar donation would be money well spent.

The creative works of Biloxi's "mad potter" are already well known throughout the art world. Project supporters say thousands of new visitors will discover the genius of George Ohr once his work goes on display in a new museum.

"We've worked with a lot of folks to come up with a figure of 13 million dollars that will be the immediate impact of visitors to the coast the first year we open in 2005," museum director Marjie Gowdy said.

"It's really nice. It's the first time we've ever been here," said Schall Bradley, as he and his wife visited the Ohr-O'Keefe museum during an anniversary trip to the Coast.

The Bradley's say the benefit of the arts is worth the public investment.

"I think it is. The arts I think are real important. Start children early in the arts and get them involved with it and bring out their creative sides and let them prosper with that," Schall Bradley said.

Some have raised concerns about the city spending a million dollars on a new museum while schools are facing a severe budget crunch. The museum director says the Ohr-O'Keefe cultural center has demonstrated an ongoing commitment to arts education with various outreach programs and summer camps.

The Ohr-O'Keefe expansion also has the support of a cultural center to the east. The director of the Walter Anderson museum says such facilities represent the best of both education and economic development.

"When you look at, for example, the impact on the business community in downtown Ocean Springs, from our museum having been here for almost 11 years, I think people that remember it before and after will testify that this is a very good thing," said Walter Anderson Museum Director Clayton Bass.

Supporters are convinced creating a new home for the works of the mad potter will also be a very good thing.

The Biloxi City Council is expected to consider the $1 million donation at its Tuesday meeting.