Explore the Southern Cultural Heritage Center in Vicksburg, MS

By Carol Cowan on April 28, 2011 at 6:33 pm EST
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When it comes to opportunities for cultural, artistic and educational enrichment, the Southern Cultural Heritage Center delivers.

Its diverse roster of programs offers something for just about every member of the Vicksburg community, with classes and workshops on painting, ballet, knitting, photography, ballroom dancing, scrapbooking, gardening, Irish step-dancing, public speaking, quilting, barbershop quartet singing, creative writing and more.

There are classes suitable for every age group, from kids to senior citizens. And for a special evening out, folks can also attend concerts, lectures, plays and other events hosted by SCHC.

New Director, New Direction

For years, Vicksburg schoolchildren have enjoyed the free, after-school art program RiverKids that has been a mainstay of the Southern Cultural Heritage Center. But when Annette Kirklin became the director of SCHC in 2008, her energy and enthusiasm for seeking out new programs and people to lead them brought an explosion of growth to the center’s offerings. Participation mushroomed as well.

“Now, the whole family can enjoy every part of these buildings because of what we offer,” Kirklin says. “Getting people here and getting them involved is the whole point. We want to be able to say, ‘You don’t like this? OK. Well, how about that or that?’ And now we can do that.”

One hugely successful idea is Classics in the Courtyard, an outdoor Friday lunch-hour concert series held throughout the month of October each year. The featured music is classic in some way – classic pop, classic rock, jazz standards and the like – and the performers are local. The event uses local caterers, as well.

Historic and Architectural Significance

Housed in the former St. Francis Xavier Convent and Academy, the center also preserves important physical landmarks. Its five buildings comprise one of the most architecturally and historically significant city blocks in downtown Vicksburg. The structures represent a chronology of American architectural history that spans from 1830 to 1955: the Cobb House (circa 1830), the Sisters of Mercy Convent (1868), the Auditorium (1885), the Academy Building (1937) and the O’Beirne Gymnasium (1955). The Southern Cultural Heritage Center is a designated Mississippi Landmark, and the buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The architecture alone draws visitors for tours – available by appointment – and the buildings also contain spaces that are available to rent for weddings and events. Inside the various structures, historical exhibits are on display, such as one detailing the Civil Rights Movement in Vicksburg. The restored Cobb House, the oldest building on the premises, is an affiliate of the Mississippi Museum of Art.

A Cultured Appeal

The nonprofit cultural center is supported by grants, sponsorships, program fees and private donations. One of its chief supporters, major Warren County employer Ergon Inc., considers SCHC an essential element of the quality of life that appeals to its company’s professional employees.

“Our company has a large employee base of professionals in Warren County,” says Lee Lampton, Ergon’s president of operations. “It’s important to have cultural facilities to attract top management people to the area. The center has excellent cultural offerings that a number of our employees participate in and really enjoy. That’s the primary reason we support it.”

Check out more on the arts scene in Vicksburg, MS.

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