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Kermit and other celebs aid plan for a Mississippi arts complex

Discussion in 'Muppet Headlines' started by Phillip, Oct 25, 2002.

  1. Phillip

    Phillip Administrator Staff Member

    Ward Lines Up Support for Arts Center
    Courtesy of the Associated Press

    A cadre of homegrown celebrities is giving a boost to a plan for a regional arts complex in eastern Mississippi.

    Actress and Meridian native Sela Ward has lined up an A-list of stars to be on an honorary committee of the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center.

    The center, still in the planning phase, will showcase Mississippi artists in a complex that includes a Hall of Fame, artist-in-residence space and an outdoor amphitheater. The cost has been estimated at $35 million and it is to be built in Meridian.

    Along with Ward, members of the honorary committee include 'NSYNC star Lance Bass, musician Jimmy Buffet, actor Morgan Freeman, author John Grisham, singer Faith Hill, blues legend B.B. King , opera great Leontyne Price, country singer Charley Pride, singer Britney Spears and Jim Henson's Kermit the Frog.

    Ward, an Emmy award winning actress from the television series "Once & Again" and "Sisters," wrote each of the celebrities in a personal appeal for support of the project.

    "Mississippi is just so full of incredible talent," Ward said. "This will be the sort of hub where one can go and see it all."

    Ward teamed with committee chairman Paul Ott and Meridian Mayor John Robert Smith to get the Mississippi celebrities to lend their names to the project. They are counting on the star power to generate the publicity and funds needed to push the ambitious enterprise forward.

    "There is no dollar value they can put on what this is going to do for the state of Mississippi," said Ott, a musician and conservationist.

    Ott and the organizers hosted a group of Mississippi legislators this weekend to tour the site. As the organizers envision it, the center will be a complex that showcases celebrities from Mississippi and supports working artists with residency programs, studios and theaters.

    The center aims to be a major tourist attraction, and it plans to complement other museums and attractions in the state, such as the Delta Blues Museum and the B.B. King Museum.

    "The center will be the hub. The spokes of the hub will be all the museums, art organizations and special events around the state," Ward said. "We'll celebrate them all and in the process, we'll spread the word around the nation that Mississippi has made and will continue to make a unique contribution to the cultural life of our country."

    Ward has been active in causes that aid and promote Mississippi and Meridian. She has worked with several revitalization projects, including the renovation of the Meridian Grand Opera House as part of the Riley Education and Performing Arts Center, the Meridian landmark Weidmann's Restaurant and Hope Village for Children, an orphanage and emergency shelter. "

    To have a celebrity of Sela's talent and fame who still loves her home town and is committed to its future development is an asset beyond measure," Smith said.

    There is no timeline for development of the arts and entertainment center. A selection committee in 2000 chose the 175-acre Meridian site over a site proposal in Jackson. The Mississippi Legislature approved the recommendation soon after.

    With the star-studded honorary committee lined up, the working committee can begin raising money and securing corporate sponsors and federal grants. Committee members would like to draw up plans by the end of the year and hire a full-time director.

    Ott is hopeful that the center, which he said he had been dreaming about for 20 years, will be open within five years.

    "I've been thinking about this a long, long time," Ott said. "It's coming into reality. I can see it. I can see the end of the tunnel."

    Smith said he believed the project would be a boon for Meridian and allow the city to reclaim its place as a regional cultural center.

    "That was Meridian's historic role at the turn of the century, and at the turn of this century, we're seeing our arts heritage recaptured," Smith said.

    While the arts center should complement Meridian's other projects, Ward said, it will shine a light on the entire state.

    "It's not just a Meridian project, it's a Mississippi project," Ward said.

    Ott said he hopes the center would bring the state and its various cultures together, from the Choctaw nation to Delta bluesmen. With the local star power behind his idea, Ott is ready to move forward.

    "We've got to stop meeting and put the shovel in the ground, but we can't do that without money," Ott said.

  2. radionate

    radionate Well-Known Member

    Thanks for posting this Phil, the news of Kermit was a surprise for me, but I have known about the rest of it. Unfortunatly I'm not going to comment on the story, as I have very strong opinions against it. Nothing of it has to do with Sela or any of the other celebrities associated. I've had the pleasure to meet, visit, work, etc with many of those people, and they are all wonderful, giving people, and have done wonderful things for this state, but as a citizen of Meridan for many many years, the town, nor the residence of the town know what to do with so many of these wonderful treasures they have had given to them. Its a shame really, and breaks my heart. The arts are needed so desperatly in this state, and yet in most areas all attempts fall flat, and performing arts centers are nothing but stages for country western acts and beauty pagents.

    Sorry just had to vent. I do love Oxford and North Mississippi, but our state has a great many problems, and not enough man power to change things.
  3. Fozzie Bear

    Fozzie Bear Well-Known Member

    Then, get started. Get the gang together and change things. It always starts with "Just one person.."

    Or as Disney said, "It all started with a mouse."

    So, get busy, you rat! If you need help, you know a certain MULE who'll help out. He's no Kermit, but he gets by.

  4. radionate

    radionate Well-Known Member

    I am! I am! To a degree. You know I'm pushing the arts in Oxford, and I have made a vow that I will never forget this town or North Mississippi should bigger and better things ever come my way. But for now, I'm happy making the impact that I am.
  5. Fozzie Bear

    Fozzie Bear Well-Known Member

    I had an impact once.

    But the doctors got it removed in surgery.



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