As legislated, “the purpose of the school shall be to provide a more challenging educational experience for artistically talented and gifted students of the state to develop their full potential.” The Mississippi School of the Arts is a statewide residential school that will provide advanced programs of study in music, theatre, visual arts, dance, literary arts, and media arts for artistically gifted eleventh and twelfth grade students.
During the 1999 regular Legislative Session, House Bill 706 created the Mississippi School of the Arts (MSA). House Bill 1675 appropriated $11,900,000 to MSA for planning, building renovations, and new construction. The bill allocated $3,500,000 of those funds to the Brookhaven School District for the renovation of performing arts spaces and classrooms to accommodate MSA students. During the 2001 Legislative Session, Senate Bill 3158 authorized the issuance of an additional $7 million in bonds to continue restoration and construction.
Whitworth College Campus
The Mississippi School of the Arts is located on the historic Whitworth College Campus in Brookhaven, about sixty miles south of Jackson on I-55. Designated as a Mississippi Landmark, the campus is also on the National Register of Historic Places.
Founded in 1859, Whitworth College was first housed in wood-frame Whitworth Hall (demolished), formerly located on the site of present-day Cooper Hall. A wood-frame gymnasium and multi-purpose building (both demolished) were added in 1869 on the present-day location of Enochs Hall. Margaret Hall (demolished in the 1980’s) was then erected north of the present-day location of Johnson Hall. Next came Johnson Hall (cornerstone: 1883), the oldest campus building currently in existence.
During the college presidency of Dr. Inman William Cooper (1902-1925), the remaining campus buildings were constructed. In 1913, the two-story wood-frame house to the south of Enochs Hall was built and named Elizabeth Cottage in honor of Dr. Cooper’s wife; it served first as the president’s home. In 1914, Cooper Hall was constructed. In 1920, the Y-Hut, the one-story brick bungalow to the south of Elizabeth Cottage was constructed, as was Enochs Hall, and as was a two-story brick gymnasium (demolished) that once was southwest of Enochs Hall.
Except for closure during the Civil War, Whitworth College operated as a four-year all-female, Methodist sponsored institution from 1865-1928. In 1928, it became a liberal arts junior college as part of the Millsaps System. In 1937, the Methodist Conference withdrew its support, beginning a long period of decline and eventual abandonment. Enrollment peaked at 315 women in 1925.
Source: “Narrative History” by Dr. Michael Fazio from the Architectural Program for the Mississippi School of the Arts.
City of Brookhaven
The City of Brookhaven provided the following resources to support MSA: Collaborated with the Brookhaven Trust to renovate Mary Jane Lampton Auditorium dedicated in September 1999, Transferred the Whitworth College Campus to the State of Mississippi in Spring 2000, Donated $3,000,000 in bond proceeds, and Received a $1,500,000 HUD grant for use in campus improvements that include upgrading the water and fire loop and enclosing a drainage ditch in a culvert to accommodate on-campus parking.
The Brookhaven Trust and Arts Council (www.brookhaventrust.org) are key supporters of the school. They were instrumental in founding the Mississippi School of the Arts Foundation (MSAF) and have provided countless volunteer hours promoting the school and ensuring the success of MSA events. Funding from the Trust subsidized the incorporation and beginning operations of MSAF.
Brookhaven School District
Through a partnership with the Brookhaven School District, students participate in non-arts courses at Brookhaven High School, located approximately one-half mile from MSA. MSA is authorized to toffer most areas of academics, arts, and humanities. Students may also take math, science, and other specialized courses that they need at Brookhaven High School.