The Mississippi Museum of Art has unveiled a new pathway for creativity and connection in downtown Jackson.
The Gallery Garden, the result of an imaginative renovation of the pedestrian walkway that connects the Museum’s main (north) entrance and The Art Garden to the Museum’s West Street (east) entrance, is a 288-foot path behind Thalia Mara Hall.
“The Museum’s mission – ‘To connect Mississippi with art and Mississippi with the world’ – has changed recently and I think it’s fitting in light of what this project accomplishes,” said Museum Executive Director Betsy Bradley.
Bradley calls the Gallery Garden a “creative, cultural corridor.”
“When we designed this building 13 or 14 years ago, our architect spoke about the Museum’s need to have tentacles into the community,” she recalled. “In its most profound ways, it’s one of the ways the museum touches its community and its people, grabbing them and giving a personal interaction with art and beauty in a particular place.”
Bradley, whose office is on the Museum building’s northeast corner, noted her vantage point to observe the Gallery Garden in use.
“I see people clipping along from their offices going to lunch and ambling back to work. I see mothers of ballerinas coming from the parking lot to the backstage entrance for the Nutcracker productions. I see stagehands who have on 18-wheelers with sets all night, coming out of that backstage door for a quiet moment or meal. I see people chatting happily as they’re going form their hotel rooms to a conference meeting, excited about what they are going to learn or have learned. And I see our partners from Ballet Mississippi and (Mississippi) Symphony and (Mississippi) Opera with their patrons and their musicians and stage talent meandering through here.
And the biggest element I have seen is the surprise. They turn that corner and they are surprised that there is a spot that is that beautiful, that is more than just a pathway… that is, in fact, a tentacle that touches them and connects them with art.”
Bradley recognized Architect Madge Beemis, contractor Thomas Lewis, landscape architects Robert Poore and Rob Anders, Museum representative Ricky Massey, the artists at the National Ornamental Metal Museum in Memphis, Tenn., and funders the National Endowment for the Arts, Mississippi Arts Commission, Betsy and Kane Ditto and the Community Foundation for Mississippi “who brought the resources to bear, who said, ‘I know it’s just a pathway but we think it’s an investment.’
“I see them as true connectors between resources and vision,” Bradley added, “between ideas and reality, between people who want to help and those who are looking to make the community better.”
Jane Alexander, President and CEO of the Community Foundation for Mississippi, said, in keeping with her organization’s mission, an estate gift from John and Lucy Shackleford was “the perfect convergence” of an opportunity to make a grant from their endowment to offer permanent enhancements to the livability in downtown Jackson.
Mississippi Public Arts Commission Executive Director Malcolm White noted the Gallery Garden’s significance, “connecting the natural world, the outdoors and public spaces to the people.”
“It’s often the only art many people see,” White noted. “We believe strongly in public art. We believe in creative place making and all the different pieces affiliated with it.”