Most coastal destinations are known more for their beaches and resorts than for art and architecture. But in Biloxi, the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum is one of the region's cheif attractions, showcasing the work of a famous local artist in an architectural setting that is an acheivement in itself.
I'm spending a few days on the Mississippi Gulf Coast to celebrate Mardi Gras. While the big festivities are still a couple of days away, the Mississippi Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau staff is showing me and some other journalists around the area, beginning with a reception and tour of the Ohr-O'keefe Museum.
The museum highlights the work of George Ohr, a local artist who billed himself as the "Mad Potter of Biloxi." Ohr's "madness" was probably more of a marketing ploy than a real mental illness, but the artwork he produced was brilliant nonetheless. The museum displays numerous pieces of Oh'rs pottery inside a star-shaped gallery, which also features some funny Orh quotes painted on the walls.
The unusual shape of the gallery is part of its architectural design. World-renowned architect Frank Ghery designed the museum, adding a touch of high architecture to the Gulf Coast skyline. Rather than creating one large museum building, Ghery designed the museum as a campus of several small gallery buildings, seperated by landscaped outdoor areas. Passing from one gallery to the next, visitors get a great view of beach, which sits just across the highway from the museum.
In addition to Ohr's pottery, the museum has a gallery with a wonderful collection of African American art. A changing exhibit gallery hosts two different exhibitinos each year, which can feature painting, sculpture and other works by area artists. The museum also has a great visitors center and gift shop, as well as a re-creation of a cabin built by a Biloxi African American family in the 1880s.
Ongoing work at the museum is repairing damage from Hurricane Katrina and opening new buildings that will enable the staff to expand exhibition space.
The museum's African American art gallery
Orh pottery displayed in the star-shaped gallery
A George Ohr quote
Inside the museum's Pleasant Reed House, a re-created 1880s home