Meridian Star

Local News

June 24, 2010

Sela Ward added to MAEC Walk of Fame

MERIDIAN —     In a powerful acceptance speech to being honored with a bronze star in the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center's Walk of Fame, actress Sela Ward cast the spotlight on some of Meridian's other stars.

    Clearly touched by the recognition, Ward (who has won two Emmy Awards, a Golden Globe Award and CableACE Award), said being honored with a star on the MAEC's Walk of Fame meant more to her "than any star on Hollywood Boulevard by Grauman's Chinese Theater." But she also spoke about the heart of her hometown – its citizens and their commitment to the arts and preservation of local landmarks.

    "The Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center Committee, which is made up of people from all over the state of Mississippi, were indeed looking for a home to house such an important institution for Mississippi for everyone to enjoy and understand our connection to great art, music and literature, and to celebrate our own," said Ward to an audience of citizens as well as local and state officials who gathered at the MSU Riley Center Wednesday for the bronze star unveiling.

    "I truly believe that why Meridian was chosen over Jackson, Vicksburg and other very worthy cities is because our passion – truly our heart and soul invested into the possibility of this being a really important piece of Mississippi's history being housed here – was palpable to these people. I think that is what made the difference, what has made this community live in the land of possibility for the last decade."

    Meridian being chosen as the entertainment center's home is testament to that continuing spirit of possibility, Ward said. She cited several examples of the city's strong beliefs and ability to accomplish great things in the midst of unbelievers, from within the community and beyond. These include: the restoration of the Grand Opera House, which had remained empty since the late 1800s; Mississippi State University's commitment to the downtown branch of its business school and the resulting restoration of the Kress Building (where Ward's mother sold ribbons) and the Newberry Building; Hope Village for Children; the restoration of the Rosenbaum Condo Building and people living in condos down Front Street.

    But it was her reference to two Meridian landmarks  – Weidmann's Restaurant and the Threefoot Building – that almost brought Ward to tears. Both structures were at one time in imminent danger of being lost to the community.

    "What happened between our passion and commitment to saving one of our treasures and then Weidmann's Restaurant and the resulting stripping of what that all meant to us, the landmark we were all trying to save, I'll never understand," she said.

     "But on a positive note, let it be a lesson to all of us to seriously protect that with which we are trying to preserve. These things matter. They are pieces of our inner lives, whether it's a historic building as in the Threefoot Building or Weidmann's ... or B.B. King, or the remembrance of a William Faulkner or Eudora Welty. All of these things matter and that's why we're here today. Why? Because they are the pieces of our culture that make Mississippi so rich and diverse, and world renown for artists, our writers, our musicians, our actors. The people who really contribute to putting us on the map around the world."

    Ward said it had been commented on her horrified reaction to the possibility of losing the Threefoot Building, "Why does she care? She doesn't even live here."

    "I do live here almost three months a year," she said. "But I'll tell you why I care. There's that adage: For those who have been given a lot, it requires that you give much in return. I cannot disconnect Meridian and Mississippi – the sense of place and belonging – from who I am. I cannot disconnect this sense of community from how I deal with my life in Los Angeles and Hollywood, how I stay grounded, how the core of me is strong."

    In closing, Ward once again expressed deep gratitude for the honor and shouted with heart filled emotion, "I am so happy to be a Meridianite and Mississippian!"

    Keynote speakers for the event spoke of Ward's generosity and commitment, not only to her hometown, but also her home state.

    "This is another great opportunity to spotlight the successes of a Mississippi artist who has never forgotten where she came from," said Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant. "Not only does this marker recognize her accomplishments as an actor, but also her caring spirit for those less fortunate."

    Ann Alexander, chair of the Walk of Fame committee, said, "The Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center is thrilled to be honoring Sela Ward with a star. She has done so much for this community, and she has never forgotten her hometown! We love her and just want to say, 'thank you.'"

    "The Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center is extremely proud to award Sela Ward, an award-winning movie and television actress born in Meridian, with a star plaque on our Walk of Fame," said Tommy Dulaney, board president. "She is truly a native daughter of which we are very proud."

    The Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center is dedicated to celebrating the essence of Mississippi's statewide legacy in the arts by recognizing and honoring Mississippi artists in all disciplines – including dance, drama, literature, music and the visual arts. The Walk of Fame is just one way in which artists will be saluted.

    The first Walk of Fame star was unveiled on Feb.15, 2009, to commemorate The Father of Country Music, Jimmie Rodgers. Additional bronze stars applauding B.B. King, Eudora Welty, Tennessee Williams and William Faulkner have since been added. Plans call for Mississippi artists of all kinds to be honored, with their stars forming a path that leads through downtown Meridian.

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