Every place has a story. This is ours.
When it comes to arts and entertainment, Mississippi is a land of legends.
And that gave us an idea.
What if we told all their stories together in one place? What if we could showcase the overwhelming impact of Mississippi’s creative legacy to locals and visitors alike? What if we help ignite creativity in the artists of the future?
The Mississippi Arts + Entertainment Experience — or The MAX, as we call it — took its first step toward reality in 2001, when the Mississippi State Legislature enacted Senate Bill #2666.
That bill sowed the seeds for a major destination with a cultural impact that could extend far beyond Mississippi.
To showcase Mississippi’s global legacy in every area of the arts, honor Mississippi’s legends in arts and entertainment and inspire tomorrow’s artists through exhibitions, performances, classes, and events.
Over the decade to follow, a dedicated board and a supportive celebrity committee pressed on toward our fundraising goals, despite financial blows from both Hurricane Katrina and the 2008 recession. In 2009, nearly ten years of hard work behind the scenes reaped one of our first tangible rewards as we unveiled our Hollywood-Style Walk of Fame and laid the groundwork for this museum experience.
In early 2015, with 50% of the funding raised, the project officially moved forward. Funding included a progressive mix of private and public funds and a commitment by city leaders and the state government that set the stage for the citizens of Meridian to endorse the facility. A local tax of two percent on prepared food and beverages was approved by almost a 70% margin and is projected to provide $2.5 million annually for ten years to help pay for the facility and realize our dream.
In January 2017, the inaugural class of 18 inductees to the Mississippi Hall of Fame was announced at the Mississippi Capitol Rotunda and included Walter Inglis Anderson, William Faulkner, Morgan Freeman, John Grisham, Jim Henson, Robert Johnson, James Earl Jones, B.B. King, George Ohr, Elvis Presley, Leontyne Price, Jimmie Rodgers, Muddy Waters, Sela Ward, Eudora Welty, Tennessee Williams, Oprah Winfrey, and Richard Wright. And in August 2018, five more Mississippi artists were added to The MAX Hall of Fame: Jimmy Buffett, William Eggleston, Willie Morris, Charley Pride, and Howlin’ Wolf.
The new facility, with 14 million dollars in immersive and interactive exhibitions, was completed with no remaining debt. On April 27, 2018 The MAX opened with a gala attended by over 1,000 guests along with a number of artists and entertainers included in the exhibition.
In January 2019, The MAX hosted its first major traveling exhibition in its first floor changing galleries. The Jim Henson Exhibition: Imagination Unlimited, organized by the Museum of the Moving Image in New York, is drawing additional visitors throughout the southeastern U.S.
By shining the spotlight on Mississippi’s statewide contributions in arts and entertainment, The MAX will guide visitors to other towns and museums throughout the state, from Tupelo’s Elvis, to Indianola’s B. B. King, to Pascagoula’s Jimmy Buffett, to Jackson’s Eudora Welty, to Ocean Springs’ Walter Anderson, and many more.