The Meridian Museum of Art began life in February 1933, when city residents formed the Meridian Art League and held an exhibition at the Lamar Hotel featuring works by Charles Le Clair, director of the Arts Department at the University of Alabama. Other exhibitions followed, and in 1949 the league changed its name to the Meridian Art Association. The first exhibition under the new name took place on the second floor of Marks Rothenberg Company (now Mississippi State University’s Riley Center) on 8 March 1949 and featured works by a series of New Orleans–based artists. Over the next two decades, the association held exhibitions, gallery talks, and workshops around the city, most often in the 1870 Room in the original Weidmann’s Restaurant. In October 1956 a painting group was formed to give local artists a chance to share and learn together and to select paintings to be hung in the 1870 Room.
In 1967, the Meridian Public Library moved out of its longtime downtown home, the historic Carnegie Library building. The structure had opened in 1884 as the First Presbyterian Church, and in 1911 the City of Meridian bought it and turned it into the Carnegie Library. In January 1968 the Meridian Art Association began planning to renovate the facility into the Meridian Museum of Art. With seed money from the association’s membership and bond money from the City of Meridian, the museum opened in 1970.
The museum has four galleries (Burdette, Davidson, Weidmann, and South) and hosts about a dozen exhibitions each year featuring work by the finest artists in Mississippi and Alabama. The museum’s permanent collection includes eighteenth- and nineteenth-century European portraits, twentieth-century American photography, sculpture and works on paper, contemporary decorative arts, and a growing collection of twentieth-century southern art emphasizing Mississippi and Alabama aritsts. Artists with work in the collection include Walter Anderson, Homer Casteel, Thomas Eloby, William Hollingsworth, Marie Hull, and Alex Loeb.
In addition, the museum offers art classes for children and adults, supports artists’ groups, and is active in the Meridian community, helping to promote art programs in the schools, economic development, and other community events. Since 1974 it has sponsored the Bi-State Art Competition, the region’s oldest juried art competition, and two decades later it added the People’s Choice Art Competition. It also hosts special programs for Black History Month, art auctions, and social events and can be rented out for private gatherings such as weddings.
- First Presbyterian Church of Meridian website, fpcmeridian.com
- Ann McKee, Meridian Star (26 April 2007)
- Meridian Museum of Art website, www.meridianmuseum.org