BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - For more than 16 years, she's been front and center in developing and promoting Biloxi as an art and cultural destination. Now Marjie Gowdy, the longtime director of the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art, is saying goodbye. At the end of the month, Gowdy says, she'll give up her position and move out of state to be closer to family.
Gowdy says she has a deep appreciation for George Ohr's pottery and for the people who pushed to introduce the "Mad Potter" to the world.
"From this little beginning of local folks who met many years ago, believed in George Ohr and his work as the Mad Potter of Biloxi. Thousands of people have come to believe in George Ohr, and his work is traveling the country now," said Gowdy.
Gowdy was initially hired in 1992 as the director of the Biloxi satellite of Museum of Art in Jackson. Two years later, the museum broke off on its own. By Summer 2005, the Ohr O'Keefe Museum of Art was less than a year out from opening a multi-million dollar facility. Then came Katrina.
"We had hired new staff for the new museum. All of that. And as happened to everyone here, plans changed."
Gowdy is now watching the museum come back to life. The Swetman House is being used as a temporary exhibit hall, a replica of the Pleasant Reed House is under construction, and several buildings of the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum are set to open in 2010.
"I think we've really proven we are so strong, and so resilient, and so hopeful. I see nothing but great days ahead for the entire coast," she said.
As her time as director winds down, Gowdy says she's tried to make the museum a place dedicated to education and to community.
"I've tried to bring a very warm feeling to the museum and I feel that people have responded. And all of our volunteers are very warm, our board is, our staff is. That's all about community. We want people to always feel welcome."