In 2007, construction was completed on the renovated Mississippi Museum of Art, creating a beautiful new home for the Museum and its permanent collection of art. The renovation project, which took just under a year to complete, marked a historical day for Mississippi and its artistic legacy.
The move from the Arts Center of Mississippi to the new facility was small geographically, amounting to no more than a city block, yet it pushed the Museum light years ahead in terms of capabilities, technology, and the overall philosophy of what an art museum means to the community. The facility’s brilliant architectural makeover reflects the Museum’s mission to become a symbolic “museum without walls” – an inviting public space that offers relevant and meaningful cultural experiences to both the Jackson community and the state of Mississippi. The completed building represents Phase 1 of the decade-long plan to transform the Museum’s surroundings into a cohesive cultural district in Downtown Jackson.
The architecture of the Museum is a tangible manifestation of a philosophical mission. For many years, the mission of MMA was “collecting, preserving and exhibiting art,” a typical museum mission statement. However, when the Board of Trustees of the Museum began to plan the building process for the new facility, the mission was changed to “engage Mississippians in the visual arts,” a statement that focuses on community interaction and personal experience. The architects, Glavé and Holmes in Richmond, Virginia, and Dale & Associates locally, applied this new philosophical mission to the architecture of the building, creating a sleek, open design for the once-rectangular building. The Museum lobby and entryway is filled with light through the use of a large amount of glass and by raising the roof of the entryway. Museum visitors plainly see not only the entrance to the Museum but other visitors inside the building, breaking down barriers and creating a transparent front door that makes everyone feel welcome. The vibrant Palette Café by Viking encourages visitors to sit and relax, and the patio and terrace create welcoming and comfortable spaces that are, literally, the front porch of the downtown cultural district.
Recently, in Fall 2011, the Museum completed Phase 2 of their visionary plan, opening The Art Garden at the Mississippi Museum of Art, a 1.2 acre public green space complete with outdoor art installations, the sprawling BankPlus Green, a performance stage, and various spaces for visitors to engage with the arts in a variety of forms. Symbolically, The Art Garden breaks down barriers between the neighboring arts organizations and serves as the nexus of a cultural district that empowers creativity, expression, and synergy in the arts community. The Art Garden has, from the beginning, been a public-private partnership with the city of Jackson. Numerous private and individual donors, as well as state and federal agencies, contributed to and helped to realize the grand vision. Architect Madge Bemiss oversaw construction, and carried the torch passed by the late Ed Blake (1947-2010), whose imagination and forward thinking years before laid foundations for The Art Garden.
The Mississippi Museum of Art has been a community-supported institution for more than 100 years, and was at its former location since the late 1970s. The Museum boasts a seasoned staff of museum professionals and fiscally responsible administrators who have been managing operating budgets for over 30 years. These individuals have worked to ensure that the Museum’s renovations and upgrades are the best thing for the art and people of Mississippi. The Museum’s twenty-nine affiliate museums across the state will continue to benefit from the loan of artwork and traveling exhibitions, ensuring that even those Mississippians who cannot make the trip to Jackson can enjoy our rich cultural history. MMA continues to expand its programs and community outreach that are already in place.
In 2010, the Museum received the National Medal for Museum Service from the Institute of Museum of Library Services, a federal agency. The medal is the highest national honor awarded annually to five museums and five libraries. In 2010, the Mississippi Museum of Art was the only art museum to be recognized with this distinction. Support and recognition from local, regional, and federal arts organizations serve as reminders of the Museum’s successes and motivation for continued excellence and innovation.
The Museum also plays a pivotal role in the revitalization of downtown Jackson. Situated between Thalia Mara Hall and the Jackson Convention Complex, the Museum and The Art Garden serve as the anchors of Jackson's cultural district, and Downtown Jackson. Visitors to the Jackson Convention Complex will get a grand impression of Mississippi's creative heritage. Meeting goers, as well as everyday downtowners, can adjourn to the Museum for particularly inspirational coffee and lunch breaks (it sets the stage for a remarkable rebirth of Downtown Jackson). Mississippi has always had an abundant supply of creative energy. The Mississippi Museum of Art strives to be a fountainhead attracting people from all walks to discuss the issues and glories of the past and present, while continuing to inspire progress in the future.