Meridian Star

Columns

April 26, 2007

The Little Museum that could, and did, thrives into the Twenty-First century

The invitation dated October 1970 was simply stated, but loudly proclaimed a victory. The long anticipated dream of an arts center for the city of Meridian was realized in the form of a historic building, once having housed the Meridian Public Library, converted into an elegant center for the Meridian arts community.

The history of the arts community in the Meridian area is rich, and historically longstanding, which resulted with the formation of The Meridian Art League in February 1933. The first exhibition featured works of Charles Le Clair, director of the Arts Department at the University of Alabama, and at this period of time, the exhibitions were held at the Lamar Hotel located in downtown Meridian.

In 1949, The League changed its name to the Meridian Art Association and held its first exhibit, under the new name, on the second floor of Marks Rothenberg Company (now the MSU/Riley Performing Arts Building) in March 1949. The show featured thirty paintings from seventeen New Orleans based artists.

Over the next two decades, the Art Association held exhibits, gallery talks, and workshops around the city at various locations, including the Meridian Public Library, The Strand Theatre, Alex Loeb Department Store, First National Bank, Merchants and Farmers Bank, Sears, and the Broadmoor Shopping Center, but the home for most exhibitions were located at Weidmann Restaurant’s, 1870 Room. The first exhibits in the 1870 room were of the work of Caroline Durieux of New Orleans.

And, finally, with the vacancy of the old Carnegie Library building, resulting from the building of a new Meridian Public Library at its present day location, the time came for the Meridian Art Association to have a permanent home gallery. In January 1968, a meeting was held in the conference room of the Carnegie Library, and with great excitement, plans were discussed to renovate the facility into a haven for the Meridian area artists.

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