With a total price tag of more than $85 million, the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center seems like an ambitious task. But the state's recovery from Katrina is also ambitious and it's this drive to rebuild that officials believe will take them one step closer to preserving our cultural heritage.
"For the first time in not only my life, but also my great grandfather's life, the nation and the world have a positive image of Mississippi and an understanding that there's something special about this people, the way they've handled themselves after Katrina," said Mayor John Robert Smith of Meridian.
Fundraisers such as the Mississippi Rising telethon and the visibility of Mississippi celebrity artists have played an active role in the recovery process. Many of these same celebrity artists are taking part in the MAEC, bringing national attention to the preservation of Mississippi's cultural heritage.
"When these artists of the caliber that we provide here in Mississippi and the south, when they speak, it makes headlines and you don't have to buy that time anywhere and it tells a story," said Paul Ott, chairman of the MAEC board.
It's Mississippi's story of hope and survival that the Arts and Entertainment Center Board says it believes will take them one step closer to building the vision.
"We really believe that our cultural center that we're building with the museum and the hall of fame will do nothing but remind people of who we are and we need to emphasize that now," said Charlotte Tabereaux, executive director. "We need to build on that and we hope that federal monies, and state monies, and local monies and corporate monies will come together to help us do that."
To date, the center has raised $750,000 through state economic development grants and money from the Mississippi Arts Commission. The next step financially is the $4 million needed to break ground for the arts center.