New park planned for Meridian Museum of Art

Photo by Paula Merritt / The Meridian Star

Meridian Museum of Art Director Kate Cherry stands in front of city-owned property expected to develop into a park associated with the museum. The Meridian City Council will learn details about the project during a work session on March 19. 

Kate Cherry stands across the street from the Meridian Museum of Art she has directed for decades and sees a new vision of art, inspiration, learning, and community.

Anyone passing by the city-owned property of about 3,000-square-feet may can see the dirt, weeds, sprinkles of broken glass and other debris.

Cherry sees a vision for future generations of art lovers walking through a new city park, a complement to the city’s museum of art.

“It’s inviting. I want to see what’s planted,” Cherry said Tuesday, standing at the city property and proposed site for a new downtown green space. “We’ll have a water feature in the back.”

The project will cost the city about $12,000 for design work and use city labor to create much of the park, planned to be located where a former fire station and city annex building used to be.

It could also be rented for wedding receptions, something available now at the museum. 

The concept for the park will include a sculpture in the middle with four garden sections and what Cherry describes as a “river wall.” It will also include items donated by children from Meridian and Lauderdale County schools, helping connect future generations to the park and museum.

The project is on the agenda for the city council's March 19 work session, when city officials will answer questions about looming city projects.

Construction of the park could coincide with $23,000 in planned renovations at the Meridian Museum of Art, an effort to improve the outside entrance of the former Carnegie Library listed on the National Register of Historic Places and first floor interior. 

Plans for the outside will include landscaping of a brick garden courtyard to match the planned city park and replace the existing ramp for handicap accessibility with a more attractive ramp. Inside the museum, plans call for new flooring and painting the first-floor walls. A project grant from the Riley Foundation will provide funding for the building renovation.

Renovations will likely take place during May, Cherry said.

Efforts to freshen up the museum and create a new park fit into an “adaptive strategy” adopted by the MMA’s Board of Directors in August 2017, which states intentions to turn the facility into a “destination location” geared toward attracting more people to the city.

“Over time, we believe this approach will result in the MMA being valued locally as an ‘attraction…” the adaptive strategy states. It also mentions working with staff at the soon to open Mississippi Arts + Entertainment Experience museum to refer visitors to the existing museum within walking distance. City and regional leaders continue to tout existing and future arts and entertainment-themed facilities downtown as key attracting new visitors and residents.

A capital campaign may be planned in 2019 to help supplement other funding sources for future renovation phases at the museum. 

Standing on the first floor of the museum, Cherry said improvements associated with the arts property adjacent to city hall and the new city park will add tremendous value to the entire city.

“I think it will be something new for the community because we’ve been the same for so long,” she said. “It will give the museum a new face.”

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