The Arts Center of Mississippi in downtown Jackson has announced major aesthetic renovations, the ceremonial naming of several spaces and the welcome of an in-house theatre company.

Flooring, customizable lighting, wall coverings and other cosmetic improvements will be the highlights of two spaces, honoring two of Jackson’s greatest patrons of the arts. The first-floor atrium will be named after former Jackson Mayor Harvey Johnson, Jr., and the second-floor atrium space will be named in memory of the late Pat Fordice, former first lady of Mississippi.

Also announced, Millsaps College will be welcomed as the “theatre in residence,” occupying space in the Arts Center for theatre classes, rehearsals, productions and more.

The renovation project is being led by CDFL partner and Fondrenite, Chris Myers.

CDFL’s design, along with statements from Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, former Mayor Harvey Johnson, Jr., and members Pat Fordice’s family, were highlights of a press conference on November 29.

The Arts Center of Mississippi was constructed in the late 1970s as the Civic Arts Center of Jackson. Along with the Planetarium, it was designed by Biggs Weir Architects, one of the most prominent mid-century modernist architects in Mississippi. Home to multiple arts organizations like the Greater Jackson Arts Council, former home to the Mississippi Museum of Art and used as rehearsal space for the International Ballet Competition, the building is in need of what Myers calls a “facelift.”

“The Greater Jackson Arts Council approached CDFL about developing a proposal for an interior renovation,” Myers said. “The primary goal of the renovation is to bring the building’s dramatic public spaces a new life and includes replacing all of the interior finishes – vinyl flooring, ceiling systems, and a fresh coat of paint. In the central atrium space, cork pin-up boards and new lighting throughout will provide flexibility for displaying a wide variety of art media. Most importantly, the monumental stair, the centerpiece of the building, will be opened back up to reveal the floating concrete steps of its original design, adding more natural light to an already dramatic space.”

A $250,000 grant from the John F. & Lucy Shackelford Charitable Fund through the Community Foundation for Mississippi will jump-start fundraising for the project. A project completion date has not been announced.

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