Ohr Pods No Longer In Initial Gallery Plans

By Brad Kessie - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Work on the Ohr O'Keefe Museum of Art's welcome center should be done in 18 months. However, Ohr board members have postponed building plans on the west side of their Biloxi campus. That means those silver pods will sit there -- unused -- until Ohr curators launch a new funding campaign. And the new executive director says that may be awhile.

In the middle of 2010, the art of George Ohr and other painters will move out of an antebellum home, and into a spacious new complex now under construction.

Darrin McArthur is the foreman out on the construction site.

"We've got the welcome center here," he said, pointing to an area that had plumbing pipes in the ground.

Two other galleries were closer to the water, one already had its steel frame up.

Here's the catch. Those east side buildings are the only facilities going up right now. Ohr board members decided that work on the west side should be halted.

So, the center for ceramics -- the building beat up by Katrina -- and the four silver pods already on the site will remain vacant indefinitely.

"We want Ohr pots in them as soon as possible," Ohr O'Keefe Museum of Art executive director Denny Mecham said, referring to the pods. "That's one of the compromises. We will have to make due until we can get them completed."

Construction costs became an issue that Ohr board members couldn't ignore any longer. Mecham said the Ohr O'Keefe board is paying $21 million to build the welcome center. The price tag to complete the entire campus would add an additional $14 million to that total. And Mecham said board members knew finding that money in this economy wouldn't be easy.

"Economics are creative. We have to find a creative way to find the funding to complete the west campus," she admitted.

The creativity of Ohr O'Keefe Museum of Art supporters is definitely being put to the test. While volunteers prepare the Swetman House for a show titled "The Merry Teapot," staff members search for grants and other funding sources, to showcase the Mad Potter's art during tough economic times.

"What is important about it is that it's creating this bulls eye right in the heart of the gulf coast for economic development," Mecham said.