Margaret Martin center deserves state funds

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Sen. Bob Dearing may have never been to Africa, but he darn sure knows how to eat an elephant — one small bite at a time.

Dearing, D-Natchez, has sponsored a bill requesting $2 million per year for three years to renovate Margaret Martin Performing Arts Center.

His attempts to garner a full $6 million in funding for the renovation of the building have failed in the past, so like a modern day Don Quixote,

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Dearing will not sway from his mission.

The move may be seen as a lark to some naysayers. Those who look at it merely as an old school that houses a month-long music festival and a ballet academy, would be correct in that thought. The state shouldn’t devote that kind of money to merely provide a home for those two entities.

But Margaret Martin is not just an old school, and its importance cannot be measured merely as a home Natchez Festival of Music or the Natchez Ballet Academy, though the two groups certainly give the building life.

Margaret Martin was named a Mississippi Landmark, the highest such recognition the state gives to buildings of historical significance.

Margaret Martin is bigger than Natchez, and thus deserves state aid in restoring.

The problem is the restoration will be lost if the building isn’t put into better hands than those with the City of Natchez. The city is incapable at the moment of preserving and protecting its own properties from the slow decay of time.

Perhaps the building could some how be repurposed for the school district’s uses or as state-operated Natchez history museum or any number of other prospects.

Any of those would be an improvement and provide long-term stability for a beautiful building with an otherwise dim future.