By NASH NUNERY
After years of planning, and despite hardships incurred from the economic recession and Hurricane Katrina, construction on the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Experience in Meridian is progressing without a hitch.
Better known as The MAX, the 58,000-square-foot evolutionary high-tech museum will expose visitors to Mississippi icons in literature, music, performing, design, and the visual and culinary arts. Though the structure itself is state-funded, an additional $15 million has been pledged for exhibits from business esand individuals.
The museum will eventually employ 10 full-time and four part-time employees. Additionally, The MAX will offer paid summer internships and part-time student work positions throughout the year.
The facility will include a gift shop, broadcast and art studios, a multi-purpose space for traveling exhibits, a state-sanctioned arts and entertainment hall of fame and an outdoor performance area and courtyard for impromptu performances.
Exhibit designer Gallagher & Associates of Washington, D.C., also designed the BB King Museum in Indianola and World War II Museum in New Orleans.
The grand opening gala for the museum, designed to “educate and inspire,” is set for April 27, 2018.
Paula Chance, director of marketing for The MAX, said construction remains on schedule despite a wetter-than-average June.
“It’s not going to be simply a museum but an experience, with lots of interactive tech inside,” she said.
“Personally, I can’t wait to get over there and test it all out. People are going to be amazed when the facility is finally open to the public next spring.”
With the digital innovation inside the $45 million facility and a mobile app for distance learning, resident Mississippians and visitors alike will enjoy an immersive, hands-on interactive “experience” that will entertain and enlighten.
The building also will serve as a home for lectures, studio classes, outdoor performances, film presentations, symposiums, and artist demonstrations and residencies. A three-year advance schedule of traveling exhibitions is being organized, according to Chance.
The MAX is nearly two decades in the making.
In 2001, the Mississippi Legislature enacted Senate Bill No. 2666 establishing the Southern Arts and Entertainment Center, Inc., now known as The Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Experience. To date, the state has pledged $29 million to the project.
A Hollywood-style Walk of Fame was unveiled in 2009, and will be transported from the Riley Center to The MAX site on Front Street.
“We’re so excited to have it here in Meridian, and to have the opportunity to enhance tourism in the state of Mississippi.” Chance said.
A feasibility study sanctioned by The MAX predicts the museum will host a minimum of 125,000 visitors annually, with a high end of 200,000. With more than 13 million people passing through Meridian via I-20 each year, officials are optimistic those figures can be reached.
“The staff will be moving to the building in November and that will give us plenty of time before the grand opening in April.
“We feel The MAX will be the ‘gateway’ to other museums and attractions in Mississippi, such as the BB King and William Faulkner museums,” Chance said.