Marty Stuart Museum Site Floated Here

This appeared in The Neshoba Democrat - October 26, 2011

Marty Stuart was in Philadelphia last week to meet with governmental and business leaders and others about a proposal to build a center or museum here to house his Country Music collection.

The proposal stems from the Mississippi Country Music Commission which called Stuart's collection "a living history of Country Music" which would be the heart of a center in Philadelphia.

Stuart, along with wife Connie Smith, presented the idea of a center where those wanting to learn more about the history of Country Music could do so.

"Country Music is my life," said Stuart, "and it should be weighed in with other forms of music."

Talks about opening a facility to house Stuart's collection began a year ago, said Community Development Partnership President David Vowell, one of the 30 people attending Wednesday's meeting that was not announced to the press.

Vowell is among members of the newly established Mississippi Country Music Commission whose purpose is the "promotion, presentation, preservation and enhancement of Mississippi's Country Music."

Stuart was singled out by the Commission for his collection.

Vowell said that Philadelphia was the only place considered for the center, which could be constructed with private, local and state funds.

Plans for the center are currently in the planning phase but a few key points have been announced.

One proposal calls for the center to be constructed in the style of a cabin or house on Stuart's property in northern Neshoba County about 15 miles from downtown.

The building, described by Stuart, would be a combination of a museum, theater and classroom.

While the center would house the collection, the theater would be for small performances. The classroom was described as a place for "oral histories."

"People like Willie Nelson could come and give oral histories about Country Music," said Stuart.

This initial plan was met with applause by those in attendance.

"We are on the verge of the single most exciting thing to impact tourism in Neshoba County since the Fair [the Neshoba County Fair] got electricity and Pearl River Resort," said state Senator Giles Ward, a member of the Mississippi Country Music Commission. "This would be a joint private, local and state endeavor but the benefits are beyond estimation."

Commission member Marty Gamblin, executive director of the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center, said that for the Marty Stuart Center to become a reality they needed to band together.

"We want to get our act together," he said. "We need to show people what is in Mississippi and tell them to come to Philadelphia to check out the museum.

"This is a crown jewel for Philadelphia and the State of Mississippi."

When the center is built, it would not be the first such facility honoring a musical genre steeped in Mississippi's history.

Stuart listed off several areas where Mississippi's musical history is celebrated.

"There is the Presley's in Tupelo and B.B. in Indianola," he said, referring to the Elvis Presley birthplace in Tupelo, which celebrates rock and roll, and the B.B. King Museum in Tupelo, which celebrates the blues.

Near the meeting's end, those in attendance expressed their support for the project.

"It's a blessing to have royalty of the music world here," said Philadelphia Mayor James Young. "It would be a travesty to miss this opportunity."

County supervisors Keith Lillis and Obbie Riley also voiced their support, saying that the project would help Neshoba County.

The idea behind the center was first brought to light during talks on establishing an entertainment district in Neshoba County.

Jeremy A. Martin, of the Secretary of State's Tupelo office, held a meeting in June urging the local governments to establish an entertainment district.

He suggested that officials promote being the birthplace of Country Music star Marty Stuart in its entertainment district, among other attractions.

Now that support for the project has been established, the next step is planning and funding.

Senator Ward said that a committee would need to be established to push the project along and help secure funding.

No cost was given for the project but Vowell noted that the state might be able to help with legal costs.

If everything continues on schedule, construction of the center could begin as soon as summer 2012.

The next meeting of the Mississippi Country Music Commission will be on Nov. 15, 2011.

By Steven Thomas

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