Innovative Storytelling Wins at the Mississippi Arts + Entertainment Experience
This June, G&A was awarded two major international design awards for our work at the Mississippi Arts + Entertainment Experience (The MAX): the Communicating the Arts Grands Prix Award for Permanent Exhibition Design, and the SEGD Global Design Honor Award for Digital Experience Content.
Opening the Door to Creativity
The Mississippi Arts + Entertainment Experience was established to showcase Mississippi’s arts and entertainment legacy, honor the state’s creative legends and inspire tomorrow’s artists. This is the place where the Blues, Jazz and Rock & Roll were born and icons like Oprah Winfrey, James Earl Jones, Elvis Presley, George Ohr, Eudora Welty and Jim Henson got their start.
Through two years of stakeholder meetings and community outreach, we knew we needed to develop a cultural institution that would connect an underserved community to their cultural heritage. We approached this project by asking some difficult questions: How can we create a gateway to creativity—one that inspires and elevates and is accessible to all levels of knowledge and expertise? How can we create a true sense of artistic expression in all forms to, hopefully, open the door of curiosity for future creation outside the museum walls?
By celebrating the artistic process over the finished product, we found a way to make creativity accessible to all, and to provide a connection to the shared human experience that will inspire future generations of artists.
Bridging the Physical+Digital
This museum became a passion project for our staff who worked in interdisciplinary teams to bring this 58,000-square-foot museum—with six immersive galleries and over 19 custom media experiences—to life. From master planning, community outreach and research to exhibit and graphic design, content development, media, and interactive design; this was a truly integrated project—bridging physical and digital design like none other.
The MAX Effect
The MAX has become a cultural and economic beacon for the city of Meridian. The MAX hosts weekend farmers markets, yoga classes in the rotunda, whiskey tastings, lunch concert series, a recording studio, art, and pottery-making classes; and has been named the #1 Best Children’s Entertainment by the Meridian Star. It serves as a new jumping-off point for national and international tourism and has become one of the most diverse employers in the industry. Nearly half of the museum’s staff are African American (44% compared to the national average of 14%), with a 33% African American leadership team (compared to 7% nationally!).
The MAX has hosted children from schools throughout the state. Many of them have never seen a museum before—much less a state-of-the-art museum, such as this. As one teacher shared their students’ ‘firsts,’ after visiting, she said: “It’s the first time they saw artists with similar backgrounds find success. And it’s the first time they had the opportunity to believe that they could be successful too.” She concluded, “It’s amazing how a day can potentially change a life.”
We knew this would be no ordinary art museum; It is life-changing. Life-giving.
It transcends division. It uplifts. It connects.
And now we’re thrilled to share it is also award-winning!
Grands Prix – Permanent Exhibition Design
G&A designed the entire visitor experience using thematic, immersive environments to pull people into the lives of Mississippi’s artists—placing them inside the artists’ stories and the moments that inspired their art.
We are thrilled to be among the award-winning projects honored with a Communicating the Arts Grand Prix Award for Permanent Exhibition Design. Among a total of 54 applications from 42 organizations in 16 countries, 13 projects won a Grands Prix—just three of them in the Permanent Exhibition Design category. G&A Principal, Cybelle Jones, attended the Communicating the Arts Conference in Copenhagen to receive the award.
SEGD – Honor Award for Digital Experience Content
The MAX’s immersive typewriter experience, Inside the Writers’ Mind, earned a 2019 SEGD Honor Award for Digital Experience Content. Here, we designed an immersive Writers’ Studio to introduce the writings of three of Mississippi’s (and the world’s) most notable authors: John Grisham, Richard Wright, and In Eudora Welty.
It offers a magical look into the storyteller’s mind—almost as if you’re inside their imagination at the moment of creation.
Only 10 Honor Awards and 23 Merit Awards were chosen from among 341 experiential graphic design project submissions around the world. Topics spanned the full spectrum of experiential graphic design, from wayfinding to placemaking and identity, public installations, exhibitions and research projects. We are thrilled to be highlighted in this elite list!
“This piece is a perfect example of integrated digital content within an experience. Serving to enhance and transport the viewer into the narrative in a very sensorial and intimate way.” — SEGD Juror
“The author’s library experience is one of the most talked about experiences. Visitors to The MAX have used terms like “magical” and “mesmerizing” to describe it. Our museum docents receive great feedback from school tours, where teachers use the author examples to continue a dialogue about great writers and their process. On behalf of the Board of Directors and staff members of The Mississippi Arts + Entertainment Experience, we want to thank our partners at Gallagher & Associates for their profound creativity. Over two years of development The MAX leadership enjoyed our mutual efforts to provide a meaningful, enlightening, and moving experience for museum visitors.” — Mark Tullos, President & CEO | Mississippi Arts + Entertainment Experience
“‘Inside the Writer’s Mind’ doesn’t try to ‘show off’ technology for its own sake. It places it in the service of meaningful storytelling. Earning the Honor Award for Digital Experience Content is such a great validation of our purpose as a design studio. And as much as the team worked to make this piece come together with the way it did, none of this would have happened without the amazing collaborative spirit between our client, Mark Tullos, and the entire MAX team. They’ve been super-involved and constructive at every step of the way, and we’re all thankful for such a great partnership! It was a rare opportunity to be given a chance to champion The MAX’s mission of reconnecting local populations with their historical heritage. This award also acknowledges the Museum’s noble purpose.” — Julie Flechoux, Visual Design Director | G&A