The Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center kicked off its fundraising campaign in a big way. At a private event in the Riley Center with community members and artists of all kinds, board members announced that they had already raised $12.3 million dollars.
"This is really a milestone for the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center because we've been working on this for quite a while. Our fundraising campaign has kind of been in a silent phase, but this is going to be the public phase," said MAEC Board President Tommy Dulaney.
Another source of excitement for the crowd was the arrival of the honorary celebrity chairperson, actress Sela Ward. And Newscenter 11 had the opportunity to break the fundraising news to her.
"Have we raised over 12 million? That is fantastic. Didn't know that.," Ward exclaimed.
That's over a quarter of the board's goal of $44 million. Ward says she believes once construction is complete, this center could draw in visitors from all over the world.
"I love that Meridian has this feather in its cap because as I was saying to someone earlier today, we have the most uncanny amount of extraordinary talent from our state," she said.
The Arts and Entertainment Center aims to honor just that - Mississippi artists in all disciplines.
But our tourism director says we're doing more than just showing off all the talent Mississippi has to offer. This could also impact our area economically.
"People come to Mississippi to visit and find out what's going on. Meridian's going to be one of their stops. It's not just going to be the delta or Tupelo or the coast. Meridian becomes one of those must-see destinations when they're in the state," Dede Mogollon said.
The center is set to open in 2017.