Ocean Springs Receives Cultural Tourism Boost

Room by room, the 80-year-old Ocean Springs School building is being restored to its original glory. It stands as an example of how a community can come together to save an endangered structure.

"Look how she sits so majestic now. And to think it would have been rubble in a dump," said Betty Magee, Executive Director of the Mary C. O'Keefe Cultural Center. "We're standing in this wonderful area that's going to house our cultural history: The Ocean Springs City Museum."

Now, the building is a centerpiece that showcases the city's famous artwork and preserves its rich heritage.

"Look at the entire family in the background into the seafood industry," Magee said as she pointed to a picture, submitted by a local family.

The city's cultural significance has caught the attention of the governor's office. Ocean Springs has been chosen for a pilot project called Certified Cultural Corners Program. The city will receive a $10,000 grant to promote its cultural tourism.

Ocean Springs welcomes about a million visitors every year. They come mainly to enjoy the art, history and heritage. The mayor wants to use part of the governor's grant money to market those wonderful assets, and draw even more visitors to this community.

"One is the 1699 landing reenactment of Pierre d'Iberville meeting the Biloxi Indians on the beach, which we've not done since Hurricane Katrina," said Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran. "We're hoping people will come. And that's a perfect example of how we can celebrate our heritage, our history, and invite people, tourists to come into downtown and appreciate it."

The mayor hopes to drive home the message that Ocean Springs is a gem when it comes to art and culture.

The five cities in the pilot program will hold town meetings to come up with projects to enhance each community's cultural significance. The Mississippi Development Authority will disperse the grant money between now and the end of June.