Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art
Designed by architect Frank O. Gehry and partnews, the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art is located on a four-acre campus in Biloxi, Mississippi. Set within a grove of ancient Live Oak trees, Gehry designed the Ohr-O’Keefe project as a series of six small pavilions woven among the trees and connected by an open brick plaza, creating an inviting and lively arts campus that maintains the existing park setting and encourages pedestrian circulation throughout the site. The entire project employs a micro-pile foundation system intended to minimize impact on the root systems of the Live Oak trees. The use of local materials, the use of references to the local vernacular, and the scale and placement of each of the pavilions on the site, represent sensitive responses to the conditions of the site and to the context of the surrounding area. The 25,000-square-foot Ohr-O’Keefe Museum campus provides facilities for art exhibition and education, and cultural and community events.
Backstory and Context
George Ohr (1857-1918) the self-proclaimed “Mad Potter of Biloxi” created a body of ceramic work which defied the aesthetic conventions of 19th century America. Ohr is considered an early leader in the modernist movement and it is his creative spirit which informs the mission of the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum. His extraordinary cultural legacy is recognized for its power and integrity and for its important influence on 20th and 21st century art. Ohr’s work was rediscovered in the 1960s and is admired by artists and collectors alike.
The design process took four years: 1999-2003. In 2004, construction began. August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina heavily damaged or destroyed the buildings which were 18 months from completion. Rebuilding began in 2008 and Phase I of the campus opened November 2010. Three of the five Gehry designed buildings and two historical structures opened to the public including: Mississippi Sound Welcome Center, IP Casino Resort Spa Exhibitions Gallery, Gallery of African American Art, Pleasant Reed Interpretive Center and the Creel House.
Ten years in the making, the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art celebrates the innovative, independent and creative spirit of its namesake, Mississippi master potter George Ohr. Just as Ohr (1857-1918) rose from devastating personal and professional loss to create an extraordinary body of work, so too the Ohr-O’Keefe has risen from Hurricane Katrina’s destruction. They view this process as an homage to the enduring human spirit.
Phase II opened in 2012 and includes the City of Biloxi Center for Ceramics which house the residential ceramic studio, meeting space, and administrative offices. The first section of the John S. and James L. Knight Gallery (the “Pods”) which will house the permanent George Ohr exhibition opened in 2014.
The museum’s mission is to promote and preserve the unique legacy of Biloxi potter George E. Ohr and the diverse cultural heritage of the Mississippi Gulf Coast; and to exhibit works which exemplify the independent, innovative, and creative spirit of George Ohr, emancipated craftsman Pleasant Reed, and Ohr-O’Keefe Museum architect Frank Gehry. This mission is served through compelling exhibitions and educational experiences viewed from a fresh perspective relevant to our community, the region, and the nation with a strong focus on ceramic arts.
About the Ohr-O'Keefe. George Ohr. Accessed January 18, 2018. https://www.georgeohr.org/about/.
Campus Architecture. George Ohr. Accessed January 18, 2018. https://www.georgeohr.org/campus-architecture/.
George E. Ohr. George Ohr. Accessed January 18, 2018. https://www.georgeohr.org/george-e-ohr/.