Mary C. O'Keefe focusing more on bringing in people

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - The Mary C. O'Keefe Cultural Center of Arts and Education is shifting its focus from restoration to encouraging more participation. For years, the historic building has been under renovation. Now officials say their main emphasis is getting more people in the doors.

Kerry Nielsen started taking oil painting classes two years ago. She says lately she and her fellow artists have noticed there is more to do.

"We've got a lot more activities than we had when I first started two years ago," said Nielsen. "They've got a lot of plays and programs for children."

Mary C. O'Keefe officials say with only a few classrooms left to be restored, they are now free to put more emphasis on filling the building with people. That's why the center is now open on Saturdays.

Eric Zala is the executive director.

"Open on the weekends and an opportunity for people to come by and enjoy the new art in the Duckett Art Gallery, or catch a music concert or take a class."

The Mary C. is in the middle of membership drive. Officials say they hope to get more people to join by making it more attractive to become a member.

"One of the changes that we have going forward is that we're going to have reserved seating, so it won't be general admission,"said Zala. "People won't have to show up way, way in advance. And also enhanced benefits to people who support the Mary C. by becoming a member. You can now become a member and actually have a chance to buy reserve choice seating before the general public does."

Starting in March, the Mary C. will become a monthly venue for local artists to sell their work. Officials also say independent movie screening are on the horizon.

"They are missing out. If they could and if they will, they need to come and check this place out," she said.

The new hours for the Mary C. O'Keefe Cultural Art and Education Center are Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.