“Witnessing the Beach” is a series of timelines and storytelling panels that explain the historic Civil Rights action that led to the desegregation of Biloxi Beaches in 1968. The installation includes custom designed seating and is accessible to all using materials such as AccessMat- an ADA Compliant beach accessibility surface. “Witnessing the Beach” is intended to give every visitor to our beach the opportunity to learn more about this invaluable Biloxi history and to also be inspired by the courageous and brave actions of the Wade-In participants, their families, and other community members that risked everything to bring equality and justice to Biloxi.
The exhibit also includes a public participation element and asks every visitor “Where Do You See Injustice Today?” Visitors can text their answers to (205) 430-9299 and these answers will be included anonymously in a larger public art display. 2019 marks 60 years since the first Wade-In took place on the Biloxi Beach and this exhibit offers visitors the time to reflect on how far we have come and where we still need to go to ensure equity, justice, and peace for all people.
In 2017, Mississippi State University’s Gulf Coast Community Design Studio was awarded a Knight Cities Challenge Grant though the Knight Cities Foundation. This funding opportunity is only available to the 26 cities that are the home to Knight-Ridder newspaper publishing. The Knight Cities Challenge seeks to fund projects that “focus on one or all of three key drivers of city success: attracting and retaining talent, expanding economic opportunity, and creating a culture of civic engagement.” Gulf Coast Community Design Studio was 1 of 33 winning projects in a field that originally started with over 4,500 applicants. Through a partnership with GCCDS, the City of Biloxi, and the Biloxi NAACP, this project has come to life and now serves as a beacon on our beach.
The Gulf Coast Community Design Studio (GCCDS) was established on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 2005 to work in communities impacted by Hurricane Katrina and has evolved from disaster recovery to addressing long-term issues of community resilience. Located in Biloxi, the GCCDS is a professional outreach arm of Mississippi State University’s College of Architecture, Art and Design and operates with a full-time staff of around eight architects, landscape architects and planners, always working in close collaboration with multiple non-profit, municipal and professional partners. The work of the GCCDS includes: 1) community-based housing design, 2) storm water and tidal ecology, 3) flood resilient buildings and landscape, and 4) public-driven decision making.
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