Cultural foundation celebrates 20 Years
Published 11:00 am Thursday, October 9, 2014
For two decades, three buildings have served as an epicenter for cultural activities in Vicksburg — hosting thousands of programs and activities throughout the years.
On Sunday, The Gospel Truth…Sunday Brunch with the Patrick Smith Band will be held to celebrate the Southern Cultural Heritage Foundation’s 20th anniversary.
The idea to develop a cultural center began before 2000, said Nancy Bell, who is the executive director of the Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Preservation. She also serves as the president for the SCHF board and has been a board member since the foundations inception.
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“In 1990, the Southern Cultural Heritage Center was initially conceived during a conversation between Dr. William Ferris and Vicksburg Mayor Robert Walker,” said Bell.
Ferris, a Vicksburg native, was the founding director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi.
Both men were worried about St. Francis Elementary School being vacated due to a new school being built and the pair were also concerned that there was a lack of opportunities available for locals and visitors to learn about the cultural and ethnic heritage of the Vicksburg-Warren County community, said Bell.
The men’s interests in both preserving the historical facility and to offer diverse cultural experiences for the community was eventually met with a study that found there was a need for a cultural center in Vicksburg, said Bell.
“St. Francis Elementary School moved out of the property in 1992 and the Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Preservation began negotiations with the Sisters of Mercy to purchase an option on the block of buildings,” said Bell.
The facility was on the verge of being sold for a low-income housing project, she said, but the Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Preservation was able to secure a $15,000 option on the properties.
“Once the option was signed, a committee was established to begin securing the funds needed for the acquisition of the complex,” said Bell, and on Feb. 7, 1994, at a city board meeting Mayor Joe Loviza announced that the city would provide $1 million for the project — with monies being raised through bond financing.
“The city consequently filed the paperwork to establish the SCHF as a not-for-profit corporation,” said Bell, and the foundation was charged with the mission of redeveloping the complex and executing other necessary contracts.
In the SCHC’s 20 years more that 400 workshops, 200 performances, 80 exhibits and 100 lectures and booksignings have been offered, said Stacey Massey, the current executive director for the center.
“I really think these numbers are bigger that what I have listed,” she said.
“At some point when I was trying to gather these numbers it became so overwhelming at the amount of things that have happened at the SCHC,” Massey said.
Events have included New Harmonies — a Smithsonian exhibit that celebrated American Roots Music, performances by the Red Tops, The Art of the Cartoonist with Marshall Ramsey and a segment of “O Brother Where Art Thou,” that starred George Clooney, was filmed at the facilities’ auditorium, said Massey.
Ongoing events that are offered at the SCHC include the Chocolate Affair, Southern Book Club, River Kids After School Arts Program, Over the River Run, Classics in the Courtyard and Holly Days.
The SCHC has had six past executive directors, said Bell which include Grace Aaron — 1995-1996, Dinah Lazor — 1996-1998, Ted Smith — 1999-2001, Glenda LaGarde (interim) — 2001-2003, Bess Averett —2003-2007 and Annette Kirklin — 2007-2013.
Beth Brown served as the center’s office manager from 1999- 2009 and Angie Wilkinson has served from 2009 to present.
Sunday’s event begins at 11:30 a.m. Advance tickets are $20; children under the age of 6 are free. The event includes brunch by Storycook Favorites and entertainment by the band.
From 12:30 to 2 p.m. free tours of the SCHC buildings and exhibits will be offered.
For more information, call 601-631-2997 or visit www.southernculture.org.
If you go
The Gospel Truth…Sunday Brunch with the Patrick Smith Band will begin at 11:30 a.m. Sunday at the Southern Cultural Heritage Center auditorium, 1302 Adams St. Advance tickets are $20. Children under 6 get in for free. The event includes brunch by Storycook Favorites and entertainment by the band.
Tours of the SCHF buildings and exhibits will be offered from 12:30 to 2 p.m.