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Stars put arts center in limelight

By By Steve Gillespie / staff writer
Oct. 25, 2002
Nationally-acclaimed artists with ties to the state are helping put "Meridian in the limelight" by lending their names to the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center.
Paul Ott, chairman of the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center Development Committee, said the official announcement of celebrities who have agreed to serve on an honorary committee for the project will be made Saturday during a special legislative day in Meridian.
Under the theme "Meridian in the Limelight," invitations went out to state lawmakers to spend the weekend in town for an up close and personal look at the city's emergence as a statewide and regional arts center and other local developments.
A total of about 40 legislators and members of their families are scheduled to tour various sites and art galleries, dine at local restaurants including Weidmann's and play golf at Northwood Country Club.
And two Jackson bands the Capital City Stage Band and the Bluz Boys have been hired to play at a public concert scheduled for downtown's Dumont Plaza from 8 p.m. until midnight tonight.
The list of celebrities lending their names to the arts and entertainment center reads like a who's who in American entertainment and literary circles.
Melinda Hood of Yazoo City, chairman of the marketing committee for the center, said Thursday that actress Sela Ward, a Lauderdale County native, was instrumental in securing the endorsements and has been working for months to elevate the profile of the project.
Meridian was designated by the Legislature as the home for a Southern Arts and Entertainment
Center to spotlight the state's rich tradition of artists, musicians and entertainers. The center's development committee decided earlier this year to do business as the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center in an effort to focus on Mississippi.
Ward landed such prominent figures as Morgan Freeman of Clarksdale; musicians Lance Bass of Brandon, Jimmy Buffett of Pascagoula, Faith Hill of Star, B.B. King of Indianola, Leontyne Price of Laurel, Charley Pride of Sledge, and Britney Spears of McComb; author John Grisham of Holly Springs; and Jim Henson's Kermit the Frog, Leland.
Other well-known celebrities may be added to the list by Saturday.
Hood also said there are plans to unveil a new logo for the center this weekend.
Preliminary plans for the center include an amphitheater, hall of fame, two performance halls and artist studios.
The development committee is also working on establishing a criteria for induction into the Mississippi Entertainment Hall of Fame, artists-in-residence programs and fund-raising ideas for the center.
Meridian native and award-winning actress Sela Ward helped secure celebrity endorsements for the proposed Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center. Here they are:
Morgan Freeman
Lance Bass
Jimmy Buffett
Faith Hill
B.B. King
Leontyne Price
Charley Pride
Britney Spears
John Grisham
Jim Henson's Kermit the Frog