Ohr-O’Keefe named one of country’s best small-town museums

You don’t have to travel to New York or Los Angeles or Chicago to see some of the country’s best museums or most cherished works of art, CNN says in a report released today. In fact, you can find one of the country’s best small-town museums right here in Biloxi, Mississippi.

The Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art, the Frank Gehry-designed showcase of George Ohr pottery and other artists, has been named one of the best small-town museums in the country by CNN in an online story. Ohr-O’Keefe, to be sure, was No. 2 on a list of a handful of museums touted, in such small locales as Farmington, Conn.; San Marino, Calif.; East Landing, Mich.; Shelburne, Vt.; Marfa, Texas; and Bainbridge Island, Wash.

Writes Nicholas DeRenzo on CNN’s Travel website:

“Many small towns also offer detour-worthy museums, some housed in spectacular historic spaces—old factories, former army bases, Beaux-Arts estates, Victorian mansions—and others built from scratch by internationally renowned architects.”

After all, DeRenzo notes, small towns are precisely the kind of place where a stellar art collection fits in. Coastal hamlets, mountaintop villages and desert whistle-stops have inspired American artists for generations. Where else can you find the mix of affordable rents, access to inspiring natural vistas and enough peace and quiet to actually get work done?

And what of this Ohr-O’Keefe museum in Biloxi?

“Biloxi’s Ohr-O’Keefe Museum raises many questions,” the story says. “You might wonder what an avant-garde museum is doing in a Gulf Coast beach town known for its casinos and sunshine. Or how starchitect Frank Gehry got involved in a project dedicated to obscure 19th-century ceramicist George Ohr. Or how this place is even still standing. During construction, Hurricane Katrina slammed an unmoored casino barge directly into the unfinished buildings.

“Any lack of logic seems appropriate in honoring Ohr, a true eccentric who dubbed himself the Mad Potter of Biloxi and was known for his delightfully misshapen, brightly colored pottery. Opened in 2010 in a thicket of live oaks, the museum encompasses brick-and-steel pavilions, twisted egg-shaped pods and examples of 19th-century vernacular architecture, with galleries on African American art, ceramics and Gulf Coast history.”
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