Repairs Planned For Ocean Springs Community Center

"It's a wonderful building and an asset to the community," said city grants administrator, Carolyn Martin, as she stood outside the Ocean Springs community center.

But the downtown landmark needs some serious attention. Peeling paint may be the most visible sign of distress. Water intrusion is the far more serious issue.

"There are some repairs that need to be done, not only for the maintenance of the building, but for the protection of the murals inside," said Martin.

Stubborn leaks, especially around windows, threaten the colorful artwork. Exterior repairs will aim to stop the wayward water.

"Take the paint down to the concrete and do some moisture barrier work to try and get a little more protection for the interior of the building," said Martin.

"It's the largest piece of public art created by Walter Anderson," said museum director, Gayle Petty-Johnson.

The director says the community center murals are often a highlight for visitors. She's pleased a conservator will oversee the construction.

"You don't want to damage the murals by what you choose to do to the building, even though it might be well intentioned," said Petty-Johnson.

Walter Anderson painted the rather large display of public art nearly 60 years ago for the token sum of one dollar. That's turned into quite a deal for the city, since the murals today are worth an estimated $30,000,000.

Planned interior work includes replacing the heating and air, installing new lights and replacing metal guard rails with plexi glass panels.

Along with building repairs, the museum director would like to see the murals restored.

"They need to be here not just for another two years, but another hundred years," says Petty-Johnson.

Work on the exterior of the building is expected to begin in March or April.

The city received grant money from the National Park Service and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

The grant money totals $500,000. The city's share of the cost is $150,000.