Biloxi’s Katrina sculptures to get new life

The Ohr-O’Keefe’s “Katrina +10” exhibition announced today what may be one of its most high-profile undertakings, the restoration of the Katrina sculpture trail in Biloxi.

The east Biloxi art museum, along with corporate underwriters and volunteers, is hosting a five-day visit by Marlin Miller, the Fort Walton Beach, Fla., sculptor who created most of the works of public art, from standeing dead oak trees along U.S. 90 in Biloxi and along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Miller and his son, Preston, will spend five days in Biloxi, re-grinding and repairing the two dozen or so sculptures along U.S. 90 that are showing signs of wear from daily exposure to the elements.

A team of volunteers from Hands on Mississippi will work at the base of sculptures, installing tar and concrete, and city crews will apply a new coat of varnish sometime after Miller completes his work this weekend.

A trio of civic-minded companies – Oscar Renda Contracting and S.J. Lewis Construction of Texas, which are rebuilding infrastructure on city streets in east Biloxi, and Treasure Bay Casino Resort, a favorite of Miller’s – are underwriting the enterprise, purchasing the supplies and providing the support for the work.

“Oscar Renda and our subcontractor S.J. Lewis are tearing up every street in east Biloxi right now,” said Tony Morrow, project manager for Oscar Renda, “and we’ll have some great streets when we’re done in 36 months or so. Wwe also wanted to make our mark above ground, and we know how important these sculptures are to the community.”

Susan Varnes, chief operating officer at Treasure Bay, said the west Biloxi casino resort has a special relationship with Miller. “We know Marlin and Rene stop by for our dungeness crabs every time they’re in town, and we’re fans of his work as well.

“We are honored to play a role in helping restore one of the greatest stories in the Katrina recovery. We’re making sure these works of art, so that millions of residents and visitors can enjoy them well into the future.”

The Katrina sculpture story is one of the most inspirational of the Katrina recovery.

A year or so after Katrina, the city had hired a chainsaw artist from central Mississippi, Dayton Scoggins, to craft marine figures from the standing dead oak trees, which were killed by the saltwater inundation of the Katrina storm surge on Aug. 29, 2005.

After the success of those efforts, and to return a favor for Mississippi Gulf Coast residents aiding his hometown after Hurricane Ivan in 2004, Miller approached the city of Biloxi to sculpt a dead tree or two – on a volunteer basis. His effort took off and he ended up returning to Biloxi and the Gulf Coast for many weekends, eventually sculpting several dozen trees, including several high profile locations such as at Keesler

Additionally, Miller’s work and the story have been featured in national news segments on NBC, ABC, CBS and in publications around the world.
See photos from today’s announcement
See a NBS News story about the Katrina sculptures
See the city’s Katrina sculptures page


Breakfast with the Mayor photos

Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich spoke briefly about an array of topics before a Biloxi Chamber of Commere audience this morning at Edgewater Mall. Among the topics: Biloxi being a gigabit city, a new entrance for Keesler Air Force Base, beautification and more.
See photos from the gathering