With only a week left, the Save the Building Campaign is getting close to an achievable goal.
The E.E. Bass Cultural Arts Center Restoration Fund at the Community Foundation of Washington County has almost $120,000 in a combination of actual dollars in the fund and promises to contribute.
“I could not be prouder of the community, county and citizens living here and that grew up in Greenville,” said Greenville Arts Council Executive Director Eleanor Wright. “Everyone has stepped up. We have donations from 9 counties, Washington, Bolivar, Hinds, Humphreys, Issaquena, Lafayette, Sunflower, Sharkey and Chicot, Arkansas and seven states including California, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.
“I think raising this amount of money this quickly speaks volumes of the community, county and citizens. The love for the E. E. Bass Building and what it stands for and does for the citizens, community and County,” Wright said. “It surely warms your heart especially during the Covid pandemic.”
The E.E. Bass Building has one of the most storied histories Greenville and Washington County has ever witnessed — dating back to the 1884 inception of the city’s first public school to the 1930 construction of the Greenville High and E.E. Bass Junior High schools.
Today, it is home to the Bass Cultural Center, which houses the Greenville Arts Council (GAC) and the Delta Center Stage community theater. That home, however, is in jeopardy as its roof has severe leaks that will cost $250,000 to repair.
Wright has located a preservation grant from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History that will match the funding for the repair dollar for dollar if the deadline is met.
“We would have to have matching funds of $125,000 to get the roof done,” she said. “If it’s raining, water is literally coming through two floors.”
There are several organizations who call the building home including: the Delta Children’s Museum, Greenville Renaissance Scholars, Lauren Bostic Metal Works Studio, Amber Thompson’s Dance Studio, LaTravia Virgues’ Foot Prints and two dance studios. E.E. Bass also umbrellas the Delta Artist Association.
“There’s so much that goes on in this building,” Wright said. “This building is one of the few places in this entire county where everybody comes.”
Wright highlighted in a letter to potential donors GAC through the E.E. Bass Building also provides numerous art and literary events, exhibitions, programming and projects for children and adults. In addition, the building hosts professional workshops, studios for artists, continuing education courses and credit programming for Washington County teachers.
Wright also pointed out that the GAC houses one of only two Armitage Herschell Carousels in the nation and the new additions of the Boat and Pony rides from the original Stein Mart.
It is no secret the E.E. Bass building has served as one of the Delta’s “go-to” event and meeting spaces for weddings, rehearsal dinners, school and family reunions and the like.
As an educational institution, the E.E. Bass campus contributed to many “firsts” in the state of Mississippi — the first school laboratory (1888), the first health and physical education department (1899), first graduating class from a Mississippi high school (1890), first public school kindergarten (1905), first public school art department (1905) and first school system to receive accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Feb. 18, 1916, marked the opening of the new Greenville High School on Main Street with Bass personally directing the design and construction.
In September 1930, construction was completed for the new junior high school wing designed by architect A. Hays Town of the Overstreet Firm. The wing was attached to the existing Greenville High School building, converting the premises to a high school and junior high institutio
A resolution from the 1977 staff report of the United States Commission on Civil Rights states, “The Greenville Public Schools and community get “A” marks not only for effort but also for results.
The city’s plan for achieving a unified system seems to be unusual in that attention is being paid to the intent as well as the letter of the law that separate is not equal.” The Community Foundation of Washington County will be receiving all contributions that are given in an effort to preserve the E.E. Bass building and repair its roof.
Those who wish to contribute can do so by sending a tax-deductible donation to P.O. Box 5910, Greenville, MS 38704, marked with “Save The Building.” The deadline for the matching funds is Sept. 28, 2020.
For more information, contact GAC at 662-332-2246 or visit in person at 323 South Main St.