Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Ethel Holden Brownstone Center for the Arts shines on college campus

Art has a new home in south Mississippi. With the grand opening of the new Ethel Holden Brownstone Center for the Arts on the Poplarville campus of Pearl River Community College, a world class performance venue sits ready to accommodate nearly any program. With seating for around 900 patrons, the Smith Auditorium welcomes visitors with soft neutral earth tones accented with beautiful wood. Comfortable seats fill the hall with both floor level and balcony seats available.

The Brownstone Bequest
Funded in part by a bequest from the estate of Brownstone, the building provides an eye-catching elevation on the campus. It was designed with the guidance of professional theater and acoustic experts to meet high standards for a performance venue. It fills the gap left by loss of the former facility in Moody Hall in Hurricane Katrina and goes far beyond that former hall in quality.

The Smith Auditorium
The plaque on the exterior of the auditorium tells of the impact of its namesakes Martin and Dolores Smith. Their commitment to the college over decades has earned them the honor of a hall named for them. They are Patron Sponsors for the Arts at the college and were guests of honor at the Inaugural Concert.

Art in-house

Outside the auditorium, the rest of the building displays details of design that make this a premiere location for the arts. A display of photos dresses the lobby area. A portrait of Lucien and Ethel Holden Brownstone hangs on an exterior wall. Another of the Smiths hangs nearby. Elsewhere, photographs of iconic images from the campuses of the college adorn the walls.

The Inaugural season
Under the watchful eye of Archie Rawls, Chairman of the Department of Fine Arts and Communication, the building will host a number of events in its premiere season, with more added as appropriate. A sold-out crowd enjoyed the auditorium’s exemplary acoustics at the inaugural concert by the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra on Sept. 24. 

A mixed program of music, lectures and theater include appearances by theoretical physicist and author Dr. Michio Kaku¸ Leslie McCurdy in a one-woman show based on Harriet Tubman and the Count Basie Orchestra as well as various PRCC musical groups. Many of the performances offer complimentary admission.

South Mississippi can look forward to many fine arts events in the future, with a venue like the Brownstone to attract and house them.

Originally appeared 09/25/2013 at

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