Ghosts at the Mary C.?
Husband Walter treated me to an evening of bluegrass in the auditorium of the Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center of Arts and Education in our town. Ghosts of the first event I ever attended in the auditorium whispered through my memory.
Oldest son Walt had performed as Bob Cratchit on that stage in a sixth-grade production of The Christmas Carol. That was about three decades ago, and even then the building, constructed in 1927 and originally known as the Ocean Springs Public School, had long been retired from use as a school.
No ghosts now
The auditorium has since been refurbished. Now 383 comfortable new cushioned theater seats replaced the battered old wooden seats.
Comfort for Mary C audiences
Scuffed and scarred hardwood floors are refinished and gleaming. Professional lighting, sound systems and acoustic panels join improvements on stage and backstage. And that “school smell” is gone.
The entire facility has been creatively and lovingly renovated and now has new life as a hub for arts and educational activity in Ocean Springs.
A previous visit to the Mary C. was earlier in my stroke recovery, and I was more focused on staying upright than on noticing the dramatic changes in the building’s interior.
Tiles that adorned walls of the women’s restroom were in the iconic style of block prints by Ocean Springs artist Walter Anderson. The squirrel below was my favorite.
Alas, although my post-stroke ability to balance has improved, it was not quite enough. I photographically amputated the squirrel’s nose.
Victim of accidental amputation
I had better luck capturing several other tiles.
I enjoyed the music, but the real thrill was seeing what had been accomplished through the leadership of a group of individuals dedicated to saving a community landmark from demolition and giving it vibrant new life. With a new name it continues to fulfill its original purpose of enriching minds and spirits.
Photo by Carol Gratto Messer