“Mississippi Roads” to feature segment on Marlin Miller

Marlin Miller, the Fort Walton Beach woodcarver whose sculptures of standing dead trees in Biloxi and nearby coastal cities have captured the attention of national audiences, will be featured in a segment on “Mississippi Roads,” Thursday at 7 p.m. on Mississippi Public Broadcasting.

The eight-and-a-half-minute segment will focus on Miller’s work, which began in December 2007 in Biloxi and has seen him create 17 of Biloxi’s 22 sculptures, and nearly a dozen more along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

His public efforts — for which he has refused any money -– helped the city land national television coverage and have led to dozens of stories being published in local and regional newspapers and magazines.

Rarely does a day pass when someone is not seen photographing one of the sculptures in the center median of U.S. 90. In fact, last year a poll of visitors conducted by the Mississippi Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau rated the sculptures as the Coast’s most popular visitor attraction.

Said “Mississippi Roads” host Walt Grayson, whose program Thursday will also feature a segment on the life of artist Walter Anderson: “What a good feeling Marlin’s sculptures bring to all who view them. His amazing work truly exemplifies the ‘come-back’ spirit of the Coast’s residents.”

Miller’s last public sculpture in Biloxi was on the Town Green: a nearly 24-foot tall blue marlin, “Marlin’s marlin,” which was painted by his wife Rene and unveiled during a ceremony to commemorate the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, on Aug. 29, 2009.

For Biloxi, Miller’s efforts gave new life to the trees that had been killed by Katrina’s storm surge, and to the city’s fledgling Katrina sculptures project, which originally featured five sculptures in a garden west of the Biloxi Lighthouse and a huge sculputes of dolphins several blocks to the west.

Miller contacted the city shortly after hearing of the sculptures that the city had commissioned in the center median of U.S. 90.

“Marlin apparently was already known for his sculpting and traveled to shows throughout the Southeast,” Mayor A.J. Holloway said. “As I recall, he contacted the city for two reasons: First, some people from Biloxi helped out in his community after Hurricane Ivan, and he wanted to repay that favor. And second, word started getting out about the sculptures we’d already done and he was tired of having to say ‘no’ when people asked him if he’d done the sculptures in Biloxi.

“Now he can say ‘Yes’ emphatically.”

The city is currently updating its Street Map and Insiders Guide to include a section on Miller’s sculptures in Biloxi and surrounding communities, and the city has commissioned a documentary on the sculptures, which will be shown in the theater in the visitors center now under construction north of the Biloxi Lighthouse.

Said Holloway: “This is a great story, these sculptures, and Marlin, through his kindness and talent, has made it a much greater story. And we’re going to do everything that we can to make sure people know about it.”

Background, photos and video

You can read the background on Biloxi’s Katrina sculpture project and see video and photographs of the work in a special sectiono of the city’s web site. To go there, click here.