Pike School of Art to Create Art Center from Former Jail
McComb, MS— Pike School of Art – Mississippi (PSA-MS) has entered into a long-term lease agreement with the City of McComb, Miss., for property formerly housing the Pike County Youth Detention Center. PSA-MS will convert the building into a community art center, with exhibition spaces, studio classrooms and accommodation for visiting and resident artists. McComb’s Board of Mayor and Selectmen voted unanimously to lease the facility at 100 Fifth Avenue in downtown McComb to PSA-MS for ten years, with the possibility of renewal in 2028.
The initial lease includes the building that housed the detention center itself, as well as an adjacent enclosed courtyard. A separate building with office and classroom space, which the city currently uses for records storage, will be added to the lease agreement at such time as the city no longer stores records there.
“I am delighted that the Board of Mayor and Selectmen agreed to lease the former youth detention center to a worthy nonprofit with plans to create a valuable new cultural resource for the City of McComb,” said McComb Selectman Ted Tullos. “Especially in light of the building’s previous use relating to troubled young people, Pike School of Art’s vision of an art center whose programming will include art instruction for children makes the project all the more exciting.”
Pike School of Art founder and director Calvin Phelps said, “Up to now, PSA-MS has been a nomadic organization. We have conducted exhibitions and public programs, as well as our artist residency program, without a home of our own. This agreement with the City of McComb changes that.”
“We deeply appreciate the confidence shown by McComb elected officials, and we pledge to create for our community a resource for arts exhibition and education unlike any other in the region,” Phelps added.
The structure leased to Pike School of Art was built in 1967 as the City of McComb’s police headquarters and jail, eventually becoming Pike County’s Youth Detention Center. It closed in 2013 after a Southern Poverty Law Center investigation found it to be non-compliant with federal standards. Since then, Pike County has sent its youth detainees to the Adams County Juvenile Detention Center in Natchez.
This summer, Pike School of Art received a Southern Creative Places grant of $4,750 from South Arts, a non-profit, Regional Arts Organization (RAO) headquartered in Atlanta, Ga, to develop a plan to convert the former jail into an arts center. These grants, made possible through funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Georgia Council for the Arts, support the planning and execution of creative placemaking projects predominantly in small and rural communities in the South. The jail conversion project, with Steve Cox of Cox Architecture as designer, will be financed with individual, corporate and institutional donations.
The jail conversion project is funded in part by a grant from South Arts in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and Mississippi Arts Commission.