The Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, Mississippi, is set to receive $1.6 million from the Delta Regional Authority (DRA) and its federal and state partners. The funds come from a more than $7.2 million investment that will, according to DRA Federal Chairman Chris Masingill, “Help create jobs, build communities, and improve lives.”
The announcement was made on Wednesday, in Itta Bena, Mississippi. The investments were made through the DRA States’ Economic Development Assistance Program, the agency’s main federal funding program that invests in basic public infrastructure, transportation infrastructure, workforce development, and small business and entrepreneurship, and health access projects in the 252 counties and parishes of the eight-state Delta region. DRA coordinates directly with Mississippi’s nine planning and development districts in the region for program funding implementation.
Established in 1979 by the Carnegie Public Library Board of Trustees and re-organized as a stand-alone museum in 1999, the Delta Blues Museum is the state’s oldest music museum. Since its creation, the Delta Blues Museum has preserved, interpreted, and encouraged a deep interest in the story of the blues. Since its re-organization, the museum has been housed in the historic Clarksdale freight depot, built in 1918 for the Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad. The building was designated a Mississippi Landmark Property in 1996. The former freight area and the adjacent Muddy Waters expansion, about seven thousand square feet of ground floor space, is devoted to permanent and traveling exhibits.
This recent DRA Investment of $168,903, making a total Investment of $1,668,903, involves the fabrication and construction of new permanent exhibits at the Museum. Shelley Ritter, the museum’s Executive Director, said the money will help make exhibits more interactive. Ritter believes the blues museum plays a role in fulfilling DRA’s economic mission by attracting tourist dollars.
She said she thinks the museum also helps fulfill DRA’s mission of improving lives. Since the blues is such a personal and home-grown experience, its important to cater to those local visitors and make them understand this is their music.
Dedicated to creating a welcoming place where visitors find meaning, value, and perspective by exploring the history and heritage of the unique American musical art form of the blues, the Delta Blues Museum provides exhibits, events and educational programs.
“These projects will address vital needs in our Delta communities,” Gov. Phil Bryant said in a statement. “They will upgrade infrastructure, improve quality of life and promote economic development.”
The Delta Regional Authority is a federal-state partnership created by Congress in 2000 to help create jobs, build communities, and improve lives through strategic investments in economic development in 252 counties and parishes across eight states. To date, the DRA’s SEDAP investments, together with its state and local partners, have leveraged $138 million in federal resources into more than $2.9 billion in public and private investment into local small business owners, entrepreneurs, workers, and infrastructure development projects. These investments have helped create or retain more than 26,000 jobs since the DRA was established.
Other announced investments include the building of a new levee in Natchez, the establishment of a rural reading program for children in Duncan, and the building of an Amtrak platform in Quitman County.