Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba along with Deputy Director of Cultural Services, David Lewis, and Planetarium Manager, Mike Williams announced updates related to the progress of the restoration of the JXN Planetarium.
“The Planetarium has been closed since April 2018 due to a roof leak and interior damage,” said Williams. “Now that the leak is fixed and we have a dry building, there is an opportunity for the Planetarium to have its first full renovation in the last 40 years.”
The city said that it is not only excited for the project to proceed (with the public’s support), but looking ahead for another 40 years.
The aim is to reopen the planetarium in April 2022.
During his remarks, Williams explained that over the years, the Planetarium has established itself as an iconic part of the downtown landscape. “From school field trips to medical teleconferences, concert performances and comedy shows, to legislative panel discussions, the Planetarium has been unique among Jackson venues in our ability to serve a wide range of our citizens’ needs,” he said.
With plans well underway to make Jackson a statewide hub for STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, & Mathematics) and space science education, the City of Jackson has partnered with Jackson Public Schools Physics teacher, Kendrick Walker, and local extended reality company, Lobaki, to launch the Planetarium’s first Virtual Summer Camp. In an effort to rethink virtual education, Williams explained that 19 students will receive state of the art virtual reality hardware for the duration of the beta virtual summer STEAM program. The summer camp will start July 6.
Deputy Director of Cultural Services David Lewis said that the process of renovating the Planetarium will take time and money.
“Over the past several months, we have been reaching out to various funding sources at the federal, state, and local level to gauge interest and the response has been remarkable,” Lewis said. “The City of Jackson has identified around $2.4 million in various funds to allocate for this project.”
Part of this includes funding from the Planetarium’s annual endowment from the Marie R. Hoerner Foundation, previously planned improvements to HVAC/lighting upgrades, and an interior demolition. The City has also placed a request to the State Legislature for funds, and applied for a federal grant.
“With a $100,000 seed funding grant from the Shackleford Fund at the Community Foundation for Mississippi, we have established a Friends of the Planetarium fund that will allow us to raise money for this effort,” said Lewis.
From now until the end of August, the Planetarium will run a fundraising campaign, offering limited-edition merchandise for sale to raise money for design work, exhibition design, and exhibition build-out. The City is also engaging all private businesses and philanthropic foundations who would like to make a more significant donation towards the Planetarium’s restoration.
For more information on how to help with renovation efforts for the Planetarium, visit yourplanetarium.com.