The Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art aims to promote and preserve the unique legacy of Biloxi potter George E. Ohr and the diverse cultural heritage of the Mississippi Gulf Coast; and to exhibit works which exemplify the independent, innovative, and creative spirit of George Ohr, emancipated craftsman Pleasant Reed, and Ohr-O’Keefe Museum architect Frank Gehry. This mission is served through compelling exhibitions and educational experiences viewed from a fresh perspective relevant to our community, the region, and the nation with a strong focus on ceramic arts.
The Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art carries the legacy of the self-proclaimed “Mad Potter of Biloxi,” George E. Ohr, and his expression of the Mississippi Gulf Coast’s unique cultural heritage. More than a museum, this site was designed by artist and architect, Frank Gehry, in efforts to celebrate the essence of Ohr’s eccentric spirit. This campus encompasses award winning structures and the remodeled Pleasant Reed home. All elements onsite offer their own unique experiences, with the common goal of providing visitors a space to relax and enjoy the enchanting landscape. The structures are connected by an impressive brick plaza, and the property is enveloped by magnificent Live Oaks with their century old limbs making for a dreamy outdoor setting.
The Ohr-O’Keefe Museum is a Smithsonian Affiliate, and it showcases the ceramic works of George E. Ohr (1857-1918). Ohr was quite the progressive artist, paving the way for the modernist movement and creating pieces that were unlike any seen before in 19th century America. The museum is home to a variety of historic and compelling exhibitions. With a focus on the ceramic arts, it celebrates the evolution of the South’s movement in the arts.
The original Pleasant Reed home was constructed by emancipated slave, Pleasant Reed, in the late 1800s. It was at risk of demolition in the 1970s, and in 1978 it was purchased by the Gulf Coast Alumnae Chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. in order to preserve its history. The house was donated to the Ohr’O’Keefe Museum in 2000 and was soon moved to the museum site. The reconstructed Pleasant Reed Interpretive Center remains an important cultural asset that educates visitors about a remarkable African American family. Seeking a better life, Pleasant Reed lead his family to new opportunities and a fresh start in Biloxi. The Reed family persevered through immense prejudice in a world that fought against them rather than for them. Despite the adversity, the Reeds held steadfast, and their family story remains an inspiration for all generations today. The exterior of the house is an exact replica of the original, and the interior of the home welcomes tours and exhibitions.
The history behind the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum is equally intriguing as the art itself. The George Ohr Arts and Cultural Center was opened in 1994. Four years later, funds for a new building were donated by the Jeremiah O’Keefe family in honor of Mr. O’Keefe’s late wife, Annette. In 2004, construction for the new building began, but in 2005 Hurricane Katrina destroyed the new construction as well as the existing museum. Since then, the museum has made quite the rebound; Mr. O’Keefe has consistently funded and implemented site progress for the museum, helping to make it the impressive attraction it is today.
The Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art is home to some of the Southeast region’s most influential art, culture, and history. Visits to the museum are easily accommodated to entertain short tours focusing on specific aspects of artwork, or to large groups that wish to spend the entire day learning about all the site has to offer. A variety of lunch combinations can also be purchased during field trips. Customized tours may include a pottery wheel demonstration, and visitors can even make their own pinch pots that will be shaped, glazed, and fired in one of the campus kilns. A visit to the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum includes much more than looking at artwork from the past. It is an interactive experience that enables visitors to learn about Mississippi’s cultural heritage in explorative ways all while enjoying the day spent on a beautiful southern landscape.
Visits to the museum may be made Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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