Marty Stuart Proposal Gets $1M

This appeared in The Neshoba Democrat - April 10, 2013

A proposed Marty Stuart Center in Philadelphia, Mississippi moved a step closer to reality last week after the state Legislature designated $1 million to help fund it as part of $196 million in new state borrowing during fiscal 2014.

The funds are included in Senate Bill 2913, which was awaiting the signature of Republican Gov. Phil Bryant.

Community Development President David Vowell said the monies would go toward general funding of the proposed center, which would house Stuart's Country Music collection.

"A serious effort is being made to gain funds for the Marty Stuart Center," Vowell said. "It's [the project] in the infant stage and we're thankful for funding. This will help us get moving."

Currently no location for the museum has been determined, but Vowell said that organizers were focusing on the city of Philadelphia right now.

Part of those funds, Vowell said, will go towards an economic impact and feasibility study.

"We're going to ask the state to help with it [the study]," he said.

Senate Bill 2913 allows the Legislature to borrow $196 million, sending tens of millions to universities and community colleges for construction projects. It also contains borrowing authority for special projects, like the Stuart Center, which are favored by members.

The measure includes $96.5 million for universities, including $31 million to help build a new medical school building at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. Community and junior colleges would get $25 million, parceled out by a formula.

State Republican Sen. Giles Ward of Louisville said the museum funds were "exciting news" for Neshoba County, Marty Stuart and "all those who recognize the contributions that he and Connie [Smith] have made in the Country Music industry."

Ward, who represents Neshoba County as part of his Senate District 18, said elected members of the legislature and community leaders here had spent a tremendous amount of time coordinating the proposed project.

"While, clearly we have a long way to go to see this project reach the conclusion that we all want to see, this is a tremendous start. It's a high priority for me to continue to work with the leadership to see that this indeed does happen."

Ward said the state monies were designed to help get the project off the ground.

"The vision is far bigger than where we are right now but hopefully, this will allow us to start doing things. I think with this initial bonding we are closer to being there."

State Rep. Scott Bounds of Philadelphia called the $1 million a plus for the community.

He said the Marty Stuart Center would be something the city and county could be proud of as well as the state of Mississippi.

"Marty has been a great ambassador for Philadelphia and Neshoba County through the years," said Bounds, who represents Neshoba County as part of his House District 44.

"If we can come together as a community to put it all together in the end, it will be something we can all be proud of. It will be a national draw. We have got this $1 million seed money committed by the state. I'm anxious to see it come together."

Ward said the state of Mississippi needed a center or museum designated to Country Music.

"Mississippi has had a tremendous impact on all genres of music," he said. "We already have a Blues museum that tracks that history and there are other music related museums in the state. To not have something specifically tied to Country Music would probably be overlooking one of the most significant parts of that history.

"Marty has devoted his life to collecting and getting this remarkable memorabilia that he owns.

"There is probably no greater collection that tracks the history of Country Music than what Marty Stuart has. He would like to see that brought to his hometown so thousands of people can come and see it."

The effort to create a Marty Stuart Center began in late 2011 when five people were named to a board to plan and maintain the center.

The board includes Neshoba County native Sidney L. "Sid" Salter, Choctaw Tribal Chief Phyliss J. Anderson, former Ole Miss Chancellor Dr. Robert Khayat, Philadelphia native Dick Molpus and Nancy Yates of Philadelphia.

Current plans call for the center to be in Philadelphia's "entertainment district," an area extending from Eastgate Plaza on east Main Street to near Wal-Mart on west Beacon Street.

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

The proposed center would be a combination of a museum, theater and classroom. While the center would house the Stuart collection, the theater would be for small performances and the classroom would be used as a place for "oral histories."

By Debbie Burt Myers and Steven Thomas

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