The Mississippi Arts Center should be cool again after ongoing repairs

A year after sweltering heat forced organizations with offices at the Mississippi Arts Center in downtown Jackson to find alternate locations, the news is finally good.

Work is underway to install a new chiller on the roof of the building at 201 E. Pascagoula Street and should be completed by early June.

“It will bring some fresh air into the building,” said David Lewis, assistant director of cultural services for the city of Jackson. “We are very close.”

The team installing the chiller will determine if additional work needs to be done, he said, noting that shouldn’t be the case.

Lewis said he worked to identify all the different parts and parts that needed upgrading and addressed them to ensure the fix was long term and not just short term.

Supply chain issues caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in repeated delays in shipping equipment.

The city drafted an emergency declaration, which is typically used in dire situations after a storm needs repair, to move the project forward, but that didn’t seem to help.

“It took us forever to get a quote from a company,” Lewis said.

The city requested quotes for the job from four companies and initially received a response from only one company, he said.

City Council approved a resolution to issue up to $5.5 million in Mississippi Business Development Bank general bond bonds for repairs to the arts center’s HVAC unit and to renovate the Russell Planetarium C. Davis.

The Arts Center is home to the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, USA International Ballet Competition, Greater Jackson Arts Council, Opera Mississippi, Art For All Mississippi, and the International Museum of Muslim Cultures.

Arts organizations pay no rent for the use of the Arts Center due to a long-standing agreement with the City of Jackson, which is responsible for maintaining the building.

Mona Nicholas, executive director of the United States International Ballet Competition, hopes the board will be functioning when she returns from a trip to Finland for the ninth Helsinki International Ballet Competition, scheduled to run until June 6.

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” she said after learning that the arts center’s air conditioning should be working soon.

An IBC sponsor from the United States provided office space for Nicholas in the Pinnacle Building while the Board was away.

The next U.S. IBC is scheduled for June 10-24, 2023, and the IBC’s office in the arts center is especially convenient during the competition, which is being held at nearby Thalia Mara Hall, she said. .

The renovation of the arts center’s restrooms to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act is awaiting completion, said Nicholas, who was told that litigation with the contractor had halted work.

It looks like the renovation of the Russell C. Davis Planetarium, which sits next to the arts center, will be in full effect when IBC kicks off next year, she said.

“Our competitors are going to the convention center, the arts center, the Thalia Mara Hall, the Westin, the Mississippi Museum of Art and we’ll have a big construction site right there,” she said.

David Keary, artistic director and executive of Ballet Mississippi, which had to move classes to the Mississippi Museum of Art and a facility in Madison, credits Lewis and Alexis McGrigg, the arts center’s director, with pushing the project.

“David and Alexis have worked very hard to resolve this issue,” he said.

“I believe them and trust their judgment on this matter. We are all looking forward to doing it again at the Mississippi Arts Center.

William E. Bennett