By Samantha McCain

The Paper Warehouse Theatre, a performance space in the Hattiesburg Community Arts Center, will soon see much-needed upgrades thanks to a grant from the Mississippi Arts Commission Building Fund for the Arts Program.

The grant funding totals $219,240 and will go toward transforming the warehouse space into a black box theater, a performance space that is designed for flexibility and creativity in stage configurations and presentations. The city will match the grant with more than $100,000 of revenue from the 1-cent restaurant and hotel/motel tax.

“The magic of theater is the show being revealed to the audience, as intended and directed. With the current buildout of the warehouse, it’s not easy to do that. The audience has to walk directly through the preparation area and the stage equipment/prop area that is often behind the scenes,” said Emily Gallaspy, director of the Community Arts Center. “This grant will elevate the space so that we can maximize its potential in offerings for theatrical productions. It will give our community one more performance space for budding and seasoned performers, and it will also continue to allow us the flexibility to use the space for rehearsals and more.”

In total, the grant will cover the costs of construction to reconstruct the 6,000-square-foot space for better flow and organization for audiences, theater participants and show directors. It will also purchase theater-grade trusses, a lighting system, a sound system fit for theater productions, staging and retractable seating. 

“We are thrilled to receive this grant to enhance the Hattiesburg Community Arts Center and to further invest in the North Main Historic Neighborhood and Downtown Hattiesburg,” said Mayor Toby Barker. “We appreciate the vision of the Mississippi Legislature in creating the Building Fund for the Arts, and we extend our thanks to our local legislative delegation for supporting the initiative. Our community arts center is another great cultural asset in Hattiesburg. We owe a debt of gratitude to the many individuals and organizations who saw the potential of transforming the old Hattiesburg American Building into a thriving space where art is created and enjoyed by so many.”

The grant will be accepted on behalf of the City during a future City Council meeting, and work is slated to begin in the spring or summer of 2023.