The MAX - Visit Meridian



Making Friends with Mississippi's Stars

Halfway through Mississippi’s Arts + Entertainment Experience, you realize something extraordinary: You’ve made heart-to-heart connections with Mississippi’s creative geniuses. The larger-than-life celebrities; the revered figures from iconic black-and-white images; the makers of brilliant songs, paintings, photographs, plays, movies, TV shows, books, and recipes — they’re now your friends.

Insider Tips

  • Bring friends. Adult tickets are only $8 for groups of 10 or more.
  • Turn the kids loose. As long as they stay on the second floor, where almost all the exhibits are, they can’t get lost or get into (much) trouble.
  • Let the kids entertain you with a puppet show.
  • If you’re puzzled or curious about something, ask the roaming volunteer guides.
  • Explore further after you leave. The MAX can email you music playlists, travel itineraries, and other enhancements. Make sure to spell your email address correctly at each display.

What an amazing place this is.

The MAX, as the museum calls itself in its own bid to be friendly, sits at 22nd Avenue and Front Street, two blocks from Meridian’s historic Union Station. Windows above the courtyard provide a great view of the station.

Most of the exhibits, organized into galleries with such themes as Community, Home, and Church, fill a second-floor space you could walk through in less than a minute. Don’t let the compact size fool you. You could spend a few hours immersed in the lives of everyone from single-name legends like Elvis and Oprah to such lesser-known but captivating creators as folk artist Theora Hamblett, Christian ballet dancer and choreographer Kathy Thibodeaux, and the spirited members of the Mississippi Mass Choir. If you really love the arts, you might be here all day. Seriously.

The MAX deploys dazzling new technology. Projections of culinary creations magically appear on individual plates. Words literally leap off a typewritten page and onto a desk to show how writers work. Individual-track recordings let famous musicians jam together on a song even though they never played together in real life.

It also employs simple, centuries-old, time-tested artistic media. Paper squares and colored pencils invite you to design quilt blocks. A jumble of soft cubes — oversize versions of a child’s blocks — transform, when correctly stacked, into copies of Mississippi artists’ paintings. Colorful puppets sprawl on a bench, waiting for little (or big) hands to bring them to life. Everywhere, music plays. Sometimes it murmurs in the background. Sometimes it takes the spotlight, stirring the spirit with its joyous or contemplative or aching power.


The MAX makes its subjects real, approachable people. Moments of humor and intimacy show how much their lives have in common with yours — and how, in poignant ways, they diverge.

You smile knowingly when Meridian-born actress Sela Ward declares in a video about Mississippi’s dramatists and theater actors, “We Southerners don’t believe in hiding our character, our eccentricities, or our crazy relatives. We just put ’em on the front porch and let ’em talk and sing and dance because they entertain us.”

You get an unsettling insight into the uncertain world of the Delta in the early 20th century and, in particular, the itinerant life of pioneering blues showman Charlie Patton, when the recorded voice of “Maxie,” fictitious proprietor of a fictitious juke joint, spills the beans about Patton’s many wives: “Must’ve had eight or so before Bertha Lee finally knocked some sense into him.”

You feel a pang of sympathy for the tender soul behind the superstar image as Jerry Schilling describes his friend Elvis Presley’s sudden silence as the singer contemplated his humble birthplace in Tupelo.

Bring Home Mississippi Crafts

Mississippi’s Arts + Entertainment Experience visitors can buy examples of Mississippi’s creativity in the museum’s gift shop and right across the street. Crooked Letter, at 2120 Front Street, sells handcrafted goods made in Mississippi, including artwork, jewelry, crafts, clothing, soaps, food, and much more.

Often, great sorrow accompanies great success. The MAX addresses that reality honestly. Some opera audiences couldn’t hear the crystalline richness of Leontyne Price’s voice after seeing the rich brown color of her skin. George Ohr, the self-styled “Mad Potter of Biloxi,” knew his sensuously curved and daringly colored pottery was glorious. He also came to realize that he would not live to see the world recognize its beauty.

The MAX acknowledges that artists and entertainers are different, and that the world can be hard on people who are different. It reaches out to visitors, especially children and young adults, who also might be different. It shares the message that, no matter what the struggle, you are not alone. Others have walked the same path and persevered, even triumphed.

At Provine High School in Jackson, Mississippi,  a young man carried a notebook everywhere so he could write down rhymes as inspiration struck. “My teacher tried to ban me from bringing my notebook to class — my writing teacher of all people!” he wrote. “But that didn’t stop me — I knew the rhymes were my poetry. I kept writing them down till they got better and better.” They got good enough that David Banner became a successful rapper, actor, and record producer who was nominated for a Grammy Award.

Mississippi has produced so many magnificent artists. The MAX humanizes them without diminishing their stature. That’s a pretty magnificent feat in itself. You owe yourself a visit. Your talented friends are waiting.