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Ohr-O'Keefe Museum Status
GCN Message Board Query Answered by Museum's Director

By Keith Burton - GCN    Filed 8/17/06
Photos - GCN

Many people have wondered what will become of the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum on the beach in east Biloxi that was under construction at the time of Hurricane Katrina. The property was heavily damaged from the hurricane. At one point, the former Grand Casino barge was resting on the property next to one of the museum's buildings.

A reader of the GCN Political Message Board recently asked about the museum and was answered by the museum's Executive Director Marjie Gowdy. The sequence is reproduced below in its entirety.

Posted by: Will it be built? ()  08/16/2006 17:49

What is the status of the Ohr O'Keefe museum that was under construction on Highway 90 before Katrina?  Rumor says that what is already built will have to be
torn down.  Where will the money come from?

Posted by: Marjie (marjie@georgeohr.org)  08/17/2006 06:04

Thanks for asking. There are two aspects to the museum: one is operations: we are fortunate to have already had a long history (pre-storm) of careful stewardship of costs and revenues; this has continued since Katrina, and operations have also been supported since the storm by major grants from outside the state. With upcoming exhibits and programs, our membership (membership is open to all) base remains supportive, and much is planned for the future. The Ohr pottery collection is now safely housed in north Mississippi, for awhile. We'll continue this year and even do more of the free outreach education in the schools that we always have.  When you see a fee for something, say for camp or classes, or a price on something at the museum online store, remember that all 'profit' made after expenses goes right back into operations of the non-profit museum to continue serving the community.

In terms of building, our fundraisers are still at work and all concentration there (except for the brick campaign, which is still locally popular, too) is out of state. We are very sensitive to the tremendous humanitarian needs of the coast and still do not want to do anything to offset those needs--although at the same time, from the requests we are getting, we are seeing that people here are beginning to hunger for art, culture, music and the like.

In terms of the building, we are going to explore every option. An historic house has been donated to the museum and will be moved to Meaut Street, today actually, weather permitting. Our offices will go in there. We're fighting for insurance and FEMA funds just like everyone else, but feel that we will prevail if we are patient. Chances are we will build one building at a time once construction restarts.

In the meantime, explore our exhibits (one opens at JD Aug 25 and is open to the public for free), our classes and our upcoming programs such as the Nov. 4 Ms Sound Poetry Reading.

We'll be in the museum trailer (donated from Texas) at the MLK building in Biloxi till late fall when we move into the house on Meaut--so come on down!


Posted by: Marjie ()  08/17/2006 06:09

And I forgot to answer your other question:

We've just recently heard from engineers that the largest building, a multi-purpose one called the Center for Ceramics, sustained only superficial damage and will not have to be torn down; same is true with the small Contemporary Gallery. The African American Gallery which was 75% complete at the time of the storm was completely destroyed by the casino barge. We also plan to rebuild a replica of the Pleasant Reed House. Strong structural pilings on all of the buildings were not harmed. Fema has ruled that the buildings do not have to be raised (they already start at 14 feet above the old floodplain and go up from there), and Fema committed to funding 75% of interior reinforcement of the walls against storm surge as well as hurricane glass everywhere.  The vault will probably be used for transitory storage of exhibits, with pottery etc coming in long enough for exhibitions but the bulk of the collection stored somewhere north of the immediate coastline. We are very proud that all of the Ohr museum's collections were completely unharmed in the storm.

Again, thanks for asking!

Marjie Gowdy, Executive Director

More Information:

Ohr-O'Keefe Museum Website

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