Grant Puts Music Site On Track

This appeared in The Neshoba Democrat - April 8, 2015

The proposed Marty Stuart Center in Philadelphia was targeted to receive $500,000 as part of a $250 million state bond bill approved by the Legislature last week and expected to be signed by the governor.

The next step in the project would be to move Stuart's collection of country music memorabilia for the center to its warehouse on Center Avenue which is currently being renovated, Community Development Partnership President David Vowell said on Monday.

While no site for the actual Stuart Center has been secured, he said three locations have been considered.

The Board of Supervisors passed a resolution in 2013 authorizing the transfer of the Coca-Cola building to the Industrial Development Authority of Neshoba County to make way for the warehouse. Supervisors also gave IDA authority to administer $1 million in state bond monies awarded by the legislature in conjunction with the proposed center in 2013.

The state earmarked an additional $500,000 for the project in 2014.

"This brings a total of $2 million from the state for the Marty Stuart Center," Sen. Giles Ward of Louisville said.

He, along with Rep. Scott Bounds of Philadelphia and Rep. Michael Ted Evans of DeKalb, has been working on the proposed project from the start, Vowell said.

After Stuart's collection is moved to the warehouse, the next step would be to make a decision on a permanent location for the actual Stuart Center itself, he said.

"We are moving in a positive direction but we don't have the timeline for a finish yet," Vowell said. "There are up to three possible sites that have been talked about but we have not made any firm decision. We are in discussions with Marty about moving his collection here when the warehouse building is ready."

Ward, who is retiring from the state Senate this year, is proud that the new center might soon be a reality.

"There's nothing I am more proud of in my years, as I contemplate leaving, than the significance of this as it brings this worthwhile project closer to reality," he said. "One of my great honors was to spend so much time with Marty and his wife, getting to know him and knowing what a treasure he is not only for Neshoba County and Mississippi but the entire world."

His contributions to preserving the history of country music is unparalleled, Ward said.

"We are going to see thousands of visitors headed this way once this center is up and running," he said.

Exterior renovations to the historic Coca-Cola building on Center Avenue were completed in September for the warehouse while the interior is expected to be completed around June.

The proposed center is expected to house Stuart's vast collection of country music memorabilia, including some belonging to such stars as Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash and Hank Williams, Sr.

Vowell said items from Stuart's collection would be changed periodically from the warehouse to the center in order to attract visitors on a continual basis.

The Marty Stuart Center 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, a Neshoba County native, told National Public Radio (NPR) in an October interview that he has been collecting country music memorabilia for the past 40 years.

"There came a time in the late 70s, early 80s when those suits and those guitars and those boots and those manuscripts kind of fell out of favor due to the changing of the times around the world of country music," Stuart said. "I started seeing those artifacts come to sales and thrift shops around town. People were throwing things away."

When he began making "more than $2 in a row," Stuart said he went on a mission to save our culture.

"The Country Music Hall Of Fame was doing a wonderful job of it, but as a private collector, that's what I went for," he said. "It started in my bedroom, and I think it's the largest private collection of country music artifacts in the world now by 20,000 artifacts strong. But it was a job worthy of attention, because it touched my heart."

Stuart 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."

By Debbie Burt Myers

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