Word comes via the New York Times that the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum in Biloxi, Miss., is struggling. It displays the impish, gorgeous ceramic work of the “Mad Potter of Biloxi,” George Ohr. Frank Gehry has made a fairy-tale assemblage that nicely echoes Ohr’s work and takes full advantage of a swoonable site full of live oaks facing the Gulf of Mexico. This museum has been a labor of love for some very committed locals, and is a bracing emblem of pride for a Mississippi coast that still looks beat-up six years after Hurricane Katrina. (There’s also a handful of grim casinos, if you like that.)
The hurricane smashed a casino barge into the museum, which slowed the opening almost five years. I visited last May. The campus is not yet complete and its airy gift shop and cafe feel too big for the place because a cluster of what should be lovely galleries as well as a ceramics-making center are not yet done.
A destroyed historic home has been rebuilt with displays of African-American life and Gehry has provided beautifully lit, galleries to sensuously embrace vitrines that draw you to Ohr’s gorgeous work. I saw temporary exhibitions befitting a much larger, more sophisticated museum. If you are in that part of the world, please go or please support. This is a landmark that Biloxi would be “mad” to let slip away.