Panel Will Plan Stuart Museum

This appeared in The Neshoba Democrat - December 14, 2011

Four people have been appointed to a non-profit board to plan and maintain a center in Philadelphia to house the country music collection of Marty Stuart.

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.

Plans call for the center to be in the city's proposed "entertainment district," which, if approved, would encompass an area extending from Eastgate Plaza on east Main Street to near Wal-Mart on west Beacon Street.

Named to the Board of Directors for the Stuart center were: Choctaw Tribal Chief Phyliss Anderson; former Ole Miss Chancellor Dr. Robert Khayat; Philadelphia native Dick Molpus of Jackson and Nancy Yates of Philadelphia.

"They said they would be honored to serve," said Community Development Partnership President David Vowell.

A fifth member will also be named, said Vowell, a member of the newly established Mississippi Country Music Commission along with Marty Gamblin of Philadelphia and state Sen. Giles Ward of Louisville, among others.

Philadelphia was the only place considered for the Stuart center, which could be constructed with private, local and state funds. The center could also be housed in a vacant building in the city, should the board find one and deem it feasible.

Vowell said that the board would initially study the viability of the project and where it should be located.

Dr. Khayat, former chancellor of the University of Mississippi from 1995 to 2009, said he was "thrilled" to be selected for the board, noting that he held high regard for Stuart and the history of Philadelphia. Khayat himself has been known to break out his own guitar and perform.

"Marty is such a remarkable person that is internationally renowned," he said. "It's a unique and extraordinary opportunity to be a part of this project."

Khayat, who is also a member of the Country Music Commission, said that the board would meet in early 2012 to begin planning the center.

"Planning will be in-depth and will take time," Khayat said. "This project will not be pushed off to the side. Everyone is committed. We have high aspirations for the project."

Vowell said that since the Stuart center project had been proposed, "nothing but positive comments" have been received.

Stuart, a Neshoba County native, said the center 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," Stuart said earlier this year.

The board of directors is seeking non-profit status through the Secretary of State's office.

Stuart was in Philadelphia in October to meet with governmental and business leaders about the project. The initial plan was met with approval 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 Sen. Ward at the time. "This would be a joint private, local and state endeavor but the benefits are beyond estimation."

Gamblin, executive director of the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center, said that for the Marty Stuart Center could be the "crown jewel for Philadelphia and the State of Mississippi."

If everything continues on schedule, work on the center could begin as soon as summer 2012, Vowell said.

By Steven Thomas

Return To Articles Return To Home Page