A Glimpse of Ocean Springs Art Culture

Ocean Springs has long been known as one of the most art-oriented towns along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. In fact, Annette McConnell Anderson, mother of Peter, Walter and James Anderson, originally wanted to create an art colony on the land her and her husband purchased here in 1918.

Ocean Springs is built upon citizen artists and the surrounding community lifting them up to showcase the art foundation that the entire town is built upon. There are many spots downtown where you can view public art, historic and local art, and even purchase it to bring home!

For art exhibits & museum galleries…

The Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center of Arts and Education showcases a variety of local and traveling art exhibits and installations as well as permanent artworks by local artists such as tile by James McConnell Anderson, Walter & Peter’s little brother.

The current exhibit at the Mary C, as it’s fondly called by the locals, is “The Art of the Word-Color, Rhythm, Image” which features local artists’ work inspired by the artistry and words of Mississippi poets such as Natasha Tretheway—Mississippi & US Poet Laureate, and Richard Wright—the Natchez-born author of the extremely influential novel, Native Son. This exhibit runs through August 17th of this year, so you have plenty of time to stop in during your stay with us this summer.

Also housed in the Mary C, the Ocean Springs History Museum is currently showcasing the work of Carroll Ishee, an architect prominent during the 1960s & ‘70s whose work is scattered throughout the neighborhoods in and around Mississippi’s three coastal counties and draws inspiration from Frank Lloyd Wright, mid-century modern design, and Japanese homes.

The Mary C also hosts a variety of cooking classes, art and photography lessons, community theater, and music events, so be sure to check in and see what’s happening during your stay!

The Walter Anderson Museum of Art, or WAMA, features the art work of the three Anderson brothers—Peter, Walter, and James. Peter Anderson was a skilled potter who founded Shearwater Pottery in 1928 just off East Beach in Ocean Springs. The pottery is still open today and sells various wares—some of which are designed after the figurines Walter made while working at the pottery. Walter Anderson was a prolific painter and writer who based his work on his natural surroundings and emphasized a harmony between mankind and the natural environment. James Anderson McConnell was a painter and ceramist who was known for his intricately decorated pottery and his murals, some public and some private, in downtown Ocean Springs.

Two of the most awe-inspiring ongoing exhibits at WAMA are the Ocean Springs Community Center murals and the “Little Room.”

The City of Ocean Springs commissioned Walter to paint the 2500 sq. ft. mural for the community center, which is adjacent to the museum, in 1951 for $1.00. Rumor has it that Anderson never cashed in on the check and would only accept this amount as some type of payment was required. The murals are now valued at over $30 million and depict the 1699 landing of French settlers, the Native American community, and the natural wildlife and landscape of Ocean Springs.

The Little Room was kept off-limits to everyone by Walter, even family, until his death in 1965. When the door was finally opened, a mural depicting sunrise to sunset on Horn Island was discovered along with various paintings, some partially destroyed by the artist himself. Today, the Little Room is a favorite for children and adults alike because of its intimacy and beautiful depictions of the natural world. The museum hosts intimate music sessions in the “Little Room” from time to time.

For public art…

Ocean Springs features many public art installations throughout the downtown area. Take a stroll down to the foot of the Ocean Springs-Biloxi bridge to view the large mosaic depicting a day on the water by Elizabeth Veglia, or walk down to the historic L&N Train Depot to see the bronze sculpture of regional artist, William Ludwig.

The most recent Ocean Springs public art installation is “Poly-Illumination” by local artists Colin McQuilkin and Bryan Milling located at the Mary C. This 9x6 ft. laser-cut aluminum sculpture lights up at night to reveal a kaleidoscope of colors.

There are many more public art installations in and around downtown Ocean Springs to explore. To find out more, visit the Ocean Springs Art Association downtown.

To take a piece of art home…

Make sure to pick up a gorgeously handcrafted ceramic bowl or glassware from Hillyer House on Washington Ave. Founded in 1970, this downtown treasure holds handcrafted pieces from over 400 local and national artists.

Or walk across the street to The Pink Rooster to view artwork by local, regional, and international artists featuring acrylic, watercolor, oil, and ceramic pieces. The Pink Rooster regularly has local artists painting new works of art inside or outside on the porch.

The Art House right off of Government St. downtown is a co-op of local artists filled to the brim with pottery, paintings, photography, collages, and more. Every month, the artists rotate who manages the house, so when you stop in, be sure to ask about the featured artist that month.

The Local Creatives Gallery in the Mary C features a different, local artist every month and has an assortment of work from various, local artists for sale regularly. Most of the artwork is under $100! (excluding the featured artist’s work)

Brenna Landis

Brenna is a native Biloxian who claims Ocean Springs as her second hometown.