Old Hattiesburg American building could be new arts center

Old Hattiesburg American building could be new arts center

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Discussions about what to do with the old Hattiesburg American building are underway. The Hattiesburg Arts Council wants to use the old building to be a new art center for the community.

However, this can only happen if the city is willing to pay $1.2 million  for the next three years and Hattiesburg City Council President Kim Bradley said this money is not available in the city council's budget.

"We cannot afford to obligate itself to that program like it is, we are going to have to find something else that will work," Bradley said.

The building was donated to the Hattiesburg Art Council by the owner, but the Arts Council does not have the funds to operate the building, so this why it asked the city council for help.

"We actually see this as an opportunity because it is a community arts center," Hattiesburg Arts Council Director Rebekah Stark Johnson said. "Maybe people in the community would like to step up to the plate and actually make some donations."

The 35,000 square-foot building would feature a gallery, theater, classrooms and other programs. Bradley said a new art center would be a great asset to the city, but he wants to focus on the council's other obligations first.

"We have to be physically responsible to our obligations that we already have and obligations to the public safety building," Bradley said "The citizens are also looking at an increase in their water and sewer bill because of this mandated wastewater system."

Johnson said she will continue to stay positive about the new art center and is hoping for the best.

"I don't expect it to happen overnight, I think we have a lot of questions that need to be answered and we will do that as soon as we possibly can," Johnson said.