Rotary gets update on new Meridian museum

Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Experience Development Director Erica Parnell speaks at the Starkville Rotary Club meeting Monday to discuss the new museum opening in Meridian. (Photo by Rebecca Hall, SDN)
For Starkville Daily News

Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Experience Development Director Erica Parnell was the guest speaker for the weekly Rotary Club meeting at the Starkville Country Club on Monday.

Parnell discussed the new Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Experience (THE MAX) museum opening next April in Meridian, which will be located in downtown across the street from Weidmann's Restaurant.

The original location for THE MAX was supposed to be in Jackson, however with Meridian being so close to the interstate and having the highest overnight stays than any other city in Mississippi, Meridian became the museum's location.

“We're expecting to bring in about 200,000 people off the interstate each year,” Parnell said.

Parnell told the SDN the museum is going to represent all artists and entertainers from or that grew up in Mississippi and it's hopefully going to encourage local artists to always follow their dreams.

Parnell said THE MAX will feature anyone that has ever been in the arts, music, theater and culinary arts. Works from James Earl Jones, William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Morgan Freeman, Britney Spears, Elvis Presley and Oprah Winfrey are just a few of the many Mississippi artists that will be featured.

“Our hope is for a child to come in (THE MAX) and say 'if Oprah Winfrey came from this tiny town in Mississippi and did something great in the world, then I can too,'” Parnell said. Parnell said she is fundraising for schools in rural parts of the state that cannot afford to take students on field trips.

She said she wants to work in organizing traveling exhibits and bringing those students to THE MAX. Parnell said she hopes the new museum will revitalize downtown Meridian into an arts district.

“The way the museum is set up is you will walk into this giant rotunda of all these images of artists and entertainers that are proudly from Mississippi,” Parnell said. “We are going to be partnering with the Riley Center in Meridian and there's going to be a Walk of Fame that goes all the way from the Riley Center to the actual museum.”

Parnell said the museum is going to be separated into what encouraged these artists and what they have in common in becoming who they are today. It will be separated by the land, the community, the home and the church.

“It is not going to be an art gallery by any means," Parnell said."It's going to be an interactive experience." In the back of the museum there will be an amphitheater for concerts and events, but Parnell said the museum's amphitheater is not going to be in competition with the Riley Center. The museum will also not be competing with other museums such as The GRAMMY Museum. Rather, THE MAX will help to direct people to all of the other museums throughout the state to learn more.

“(THE MAX) is not only going to be great for our economy and our tourism, it's going to be great because of what it does for education,” Parnell said. “This allows opportunities for students that may not otherwise be exposed to the arts.”