Excitement is building at Lynn Meadows Discovery Center in Gulfport as the state's only children's museum undergoes a major expansion that will double its space to allow children to learn, create and grow through interactive exhibitions and programs and a modern performing arts center.
Hurricane Katrina destroyed many of the museum's exhibit areas and multi-purpose rooms used for children's activities and performing arts classes. Partial areas were reopened three months after the storm. Since that time, the first-floor exhibits were replaced and the main museum building reopened by the summer of 2006
Cynthia Minton, executive director of the Discovery Center, says these initial rebuilding efforts have allowed the museum to be host to thousands of visitors from Mississippi as well as 15 states since Katrina. Officials believe the current project will result in a "bigger and better" facility that will offer additional programs and services to allow for enriched learning opportunities for Mississippi’s youth.
Minton says construction is under way on the WINGS Performing Arts and Education Center for Youth, the first of its kind in Mississippi. The construction project includes a two-story building that connects to the museum and the adjoining gym. The new building will house a ticket office, lobby, restrooms, concession, full service Viking kitchen and offices on the first floor with classrooms for technical theater on the second floor.
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A $55,000 grant from the Emeril Lagasse Foundation will support the final phases that will renovate the gymnasium into a state of the art theater. Lagasse and his wife, Alden, a Gulfport native, started the project in 2003 and continued to support the discovery center, Minton said.
"We are excited about these construction projects that will allow the museum to literally double in size," Minton says. "In addition, we are located on six acres, so there is really unlimited potential for future growth."
Minton says that the expansion will allow the museum to implement new programs that will include a Teacher's Institute and early childhood development.
Adds Minton: “These enhancements will introduce even more children to a museum environment and serve as a point of entry to other cultural venues and programs across the Gulf Coast.”