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Biloxi Museum Designed by Frank Gehry Asks City to Cover Some Expenses

By Rhonda Miller | Published 13 Sep 2011 11:35pm | comments
The Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art in Biloxi is designed by Frank Gehry.

Biloxi City Council approved funding for two established tourist attractions yesterday. But as MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports, a decision about the controversial Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art is going to take a little longer.  

Paying the insurance for the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum is one line item Biloxi City Council is considering. That’s a minimum $78,000 a year. The museum is also asking the city to pick up the cost of utilities. Councilman Bill Stallworth says the museum staff might turn off more lights if they are forced to pay half the bill.

"The utilities are running roughly about $9,000  a month," Stallworth said. "The city would agree, if it would, look at utilities, but not pay any more than $4,500."

The city owns the museum property along Beach Boulevard and has $8 million invested in the project. The museum organization raised $35 million and invested it in the multi-building project that opened last year.

The design by American architect Frank Gehry is mixture of a brick, glass and steel in unusual shapes. Biloxi resident Mary Rose Leahy says using taxpayer money for the museum is throwing good money after bad.

"Look at the buildings that we just opened here, the visitors center, the civic center, look at the Biloxi Yacht Club," says Leahy. "Those all represent our cutlure, you know,  gone with the wind. This represents nothing for us. And just because a renowned architect did it, everybody says they’re going to come see it. I seriously doubt it. They may come once, but they’ll never come twice."

But Chevis Swetman, vice president of the museum board, has the opposite opinion.  

"The museum, it's valuable. It’s going to have to grow with the community," Swetman says. "And this is another reason, if we’re ever going to be a tourist destination resort, to have people come down to the Mississippi Gulf Coast to come to a Frank Gehry-designed building."

Council had an easier time approving money for two mainstays of Biloxi tourism - the Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum, and the classic car festival Cruisin’ the Coast.  City Council appointed a committee to consider funding for the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum. 



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