Community Arts Center Named in Honor of Rebekah Stark Johnson

Community Arts Center Named in Honor of Rebekah Stark Johnson

Hattiesburg, Mississippi – On Tuesday, June 18, 2024, the Hattiesburg City Council approved renaming the Hattiesburg Community Arts Center to the Rebekah Stark Johnson Community Arts Center. The building is located at 825 Main St in the former Hattiesburg American newspaper building.

The Community Arts Center, established in 2019, serves as a hub for local artists. The 36,000 square foot facility offers a wide range or programming and includes space for classes, concerts, theatrical productions, rehearsals, summer camps, after school activities and arts-related businesses.

Proceeds from Hattiesburg’s 1% parks and recreation tax have funded renovations to several areas of the building. The city also received a Building Fund for the Arts grant from the Mississippi Arts Commission in 2022 to complete stage, lighting and sound upgrades to the center’s Paper Warehouse Theater. The mural “Jam Session” was completed earlier this spring on the building’s exterior to honor some of Hattiesburg’s notable musicians.

“I am humbled to hear that my name will be placed on this arts center,” Johnson said. “Hattiesburg is fortunate to have city and county leaders that recognize the role that interactive arts centers can play in a community. Interactive centers transcend traditional boundaries. They provide a common space for nourishing unique, idiosyncratic means of self-expression.”

Rebekah Stark Johnson, who served as the executive director of the Hattiesburg Arts Council from 2013 to 2021, has been a cornerstone of the arts community in Hattiesburg over several decades. Johnson’s leadership was pivotal in facilitating the donation of the building to the city in 2018.

Johnson stated, “There were so many significant people from the Hattiesburg Arts Council board, officials from the City and County and the community who helped to make this come to fruition, and their contributions to this project are equally commendable. It takes a team to build our dream.”

Hattiesburg Arts Council Executive Director Alehandro Wooten said, “Rebekah Stark Johnson is a renowned musician and an accomplished leader in the Arts. The decision to allow a city community arts center to be named after a local living visionary, such as Rebekah, will no doubt inspire the next generation of artists from all disciplines, Arts administrators and educators, Arts patrons and the public in general.”

Mayor Toby Barker said the naming of the center is a fitting tribute to Johnson’s leadership. “The Community Arts Center would not exist without the vision, persistence and leadership of Rebekah Johnson,” said Barker. “It is a testament to passionate, hard-working people making big things happen for future generations of Hattiesburgers.”

The Rebekah Stark Johnson Community Arts Center will continue to serve as a beacon for the arts, providing a space for community members to engage in creative activities and celebrate the spirit of innovation. This renaming honors Johnson’s contributions and inspires future generations of artists, arts administrators, and patrons in Hattiesburg.

A formal dedication will be scheduled for later this year.