With about 80 percent of the work finished, the $50 million Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Experience is on schedule to open in less than 90 days.
The MAX, located at Front Street and 22nd Avenue, will open the last weekend in April beginning with a black-tie gala on April 27. The 58,000-square-foot museum will officially open to the public on April 29.
“We can see the finish line, and that’s always a good feeling at this point in the project,” said architect Bob Luke of LPK Architects, P.A. “Right now we’re on schedule, and we’re very much excited about being open for the April kickoff.”
With the building’s interior nearly finished, MAX staff will move into the administrative wing some time next month, said Mark Tullos, the MAX’s president and CEO. Meanwhile, crews continue to finish the various exhibits on the second floor as well.
“The next two or three weeks, it’s going to be organic with our moving in — theres never a big ‘moving day,’” Tullos said, adding that furniture is expected to arrive soon. “The building itself is almost complete — it’s mainly [outdoor] cosmetic work.
“We’re maintaining a steady temperature of 68 degrees and 22 percent humidity. We have all the technology and phone lines, and we have computer servers, but we don’t have a desk to put the computers on yet.”
As work continues, Front Street is operating as a westbound one-way street between 22nd Avenue and Union Station, just east of Constitution Avenue. This is expected to last another three to four weeks, while construction crews do some final exterior work at The MAX, including paving.
Tullos said contractors have extended their work hours — at times from 5 a.m. until 9 p.m. — to maintain the construction schedule, particularly after recent periods of winter weather and heavy rain.
What to expect
The MAX’s artifacts will range from BB King’s performance uniforms to Walter Anderson’s original paintbrushes — a barrage of items that once belonged to influential Mississippi artists.
It is expected to attract about 150,000 visitors a year and help boost business at local restaurants, hotels, and stores.
“The MAX exists to showcase Mississippi’s global legacy, honor our legends and inspire tomorrow’s artists to follow their own creative dreams,” according to a news release from the MAX. “This is accomplished by the presentation of informative and compelling exhibitions, educational programs for youth and life-long learners, and partnerships with public and private schools and institutions of higher learning.”
The museum will showcase the state’s culture through its land, churches, homes, people and places and global connections.
Tullos said the museum is unique in that it doesn’t focus as much on the artifacts themselves as it does the experience.
“The exhibits are a little bit different — they are not object-centered,” Tullos said.
For example, the experience begins on a boat, surrounded by video screens that show real footage of Mississippi waterways.
One exhibit will feature a screen of various landscapes one would see while riding in a boxcar, while another will feature a juke joint where visitors can sit at the bar and use touch screens and headsets to listen to various types of Mississippi music.
“We might talk about someone like BB King or [Robert] Johnson or Mose Allison. You can hear about their careers or listen to their music,” Tullos said. “We’re trying to connect people with artists they’ve never experienced before…If we get some kid turned on to Mose Allison, they’re on the road to a music education right there.”
Another exhibit will feature a hallways of lockers, where Mississippi natives give testimonials of their school experiences — their challenges and their successes.
“We’re trying to layer all this into understanding all strata of society — whether you were a churchgoer or whether you went to juke joints,” Tullos said.