Like so much about post-Katrina Mississippi, the distance between the Coast and the rest of the State is more than can be measured in miles.
Bay St. Louis – AKA the Bay sits 14 miles west of Gulfport and 50 miles northeast of NOLA. Before Katrina, the Bay was listed in the book 100 Best Small Art Towns in America and considered one of the three best small art towns in America,” according to USA Today – and understandably so given the talented group of local artists.
Mississippi Gulf Coast, Scottish-born artist MP (Mary-Pat) Forrest presently paints outside her FEMA trailer ‘au plein air’ on her plywood patio. Her love of the Impressionists is usually reflected in her wonderful figurative paintings, however the ‘FEMA ‘ITCH & SCREAM’ in contrast and with apologies to Munch, expresses all our frustrations on the coast.
Dreams of a second life on Second Street:School may become arts center, a front page story in the on-line edition of today’s Sun Herald provided welcome news that not only had one of the Bay’s historic buildings survived Katrina; but also the possibility it could become home to local artists.
Second Street Elementary, with its masonry work and scrolled Spanish colonial architecture, is a cruel caricature of what it once was. The 82-year-old building has sat abandoned to mold and decay since Katrina, and the Bay-Waveland School District faces far more pressing needs than repairing a ruined old structure.
But a plan now in formation could lead to saving and restoring the building, getting the school district off the hook and giving local artists a place to call home. City officials are seeking $9.5 million in federal grants to buy and restore the old school as an arts and cultural center.
…Oxford…is now a magnet for more than just fans who want a place to stay on game weekends.
Those who want charming houses on magnolia-lined streets within walks of good restaurants and shops are finding all of that there…
Faulkner bought the house he called Rowan Oak in 1930 — it was then about 90 years old — for $6,000, later buying adjoining land to have a total of about 32 acres. Today, the asking price for a similar four-bedroom, two-bathroom 32-acre property might be $3 million to $4 million, said Dick Marchbanks of Marchbanks Real Estate.
W. G. Watkins… a lawyer who lives in Madison, Miss., near Jackson, and his wife, Polly, have owned a succession of weekend homes in Oxford. They bought their current house last year for $875,000. Built in 1870, it’s two blocks from the square with four bedrooms and a guesthouse. “It’s where we convene the family,” he said.
No mention of the cost of insuring the historic homes of Oxford although a tornado is just a likely there as a hurricane in the Bay where historic homes like Rowan Oak looked like this after Katrina had her way.
[Oxford Mayor Richard]…Howorth recently ticked off what he sees as key events in the town’s renaissance: the founding, at Ole Miss, of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture in 1977; the opening of Square Books (owned by Mr. Howorth and regarded as one of the country’s best independent bookstores) in 1979; the arrival in 1980 of the writer Willie Morris, who introduced Oxford to his many celebrity friends; and the 1992 opening of City Grocery, the first of several chef-owned restaurants that have made the town a dining destination.
Oxford is all the Times reported and more – but the Bay is building back better than ever, as we like to say, and what literature is to Oxford, art is to the Bay.
A click on art (above) will link you to more of the Bay’s artist – enjoy!