Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art
The Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art campus was designed by architect Frank O. Gehry as a tribute to the ceramic art of Biloxi potter George E. Ohr (1857-1918). The mission is to promote and preserve the legacy of Ohr, as well as the diverse cultural heritage of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Rotating contemporary exhibitions epitomize Ohr’s independent, innovative and creative spirit. Compelling exhibitions and educational programs have a strong focus on ceramic arts. The diverse cultural heritage is represented, not only by exhibitions, but also by the Pleasant Reed Interpretive Center, a replica of a home built in the 1880s by a man born into slavery, which contains original items from the Reed family.
The predecessor of the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum began in a building in downtown Biloxi in 1977. It became part of an experimental program of the Jackson-based Mississippi Museum of Art for a satellite museum. The program was underwritten by the Lila Wallace/Readers Digest Foundation. When the Mississippi Museum of Art closed their satellite museum program in 1994, the facility became the George E. Ohr Arts and Cultural Center and began its collection of George Ohr pottery.
Because of its popularity, the small museum began to seek a larger location in 1996. The Jeremiah O’Keefe family offered a gift of $1 million to begin the new museum, which was renamed in honor of the late Mrs. Annette O’Keefe. Jeremiah O’Keefe and consultants Jeanne Nathan and Bob Tannen wanted to make a dramatic architectural statement and contacted Frank O. Gehry, who agreed to design the project.
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina destroyed the beginning construction of the new museum campus designed by Frank Gehry and severely damaged the original site that housed the George Ohr Arts and Cultural Center. Construction resumed on the new campus in 2008 and a ribbon cutting ceremony for Phase I was held in 2010. In 2012, the City of Biloxi Center for Ceramics opened, with a state-of-the-art pottery studio. In 2014, the John S. and James L. Knight Pod Pavilion opened to the public.
The collection focus of the museum is the pottery of namesake George Ohr, as well as other innovative ceramics. The museum collection contains almost two hundred pieces of Ohr pottery, as well as collections of ceramics by Joseph Fortune Meyer (1848-1931) and Toshiko Takaezu (1922-2011). Asian ceramics and pieces by contemporary ceramists, sculptors and painters accent the collection. A large selection of the pottery of George Ohr is always on display and rotating exhibitions focus on innovative artists of all media. Many of the featured artists have ties to the Southern culture.
The Mississippi Gulf Coast is unique as a beachfront community because of its history of ceramic art - from the Native Americans, to Joseph Meyer, George Ohr and Shearwater pottery. The museum offers a view of the Mississippi Sound and Gulf of Mexico. Museum visitors can see nearby Deer Island, where Joseph Fortune Meyer, who taught George Ohr the pottery trade, maintained a pottery and kiln until the 1930s. Visitors enjoy the feeling of separate, but not isolated experiences - the new Gehry-designed buildings and reconstructed home of Pleasant Reed create a single unified vision connected by an expansive brick plaza and majestic Live Oak trees. It is a relaxing environment for people of all ages and interests to enjoy the landscape and inspiring art and architecture.