Marty Stuart’s long-awaited Congress of Country Music in his hometown of Philadelphia, Mississippi is finally set to open in 2022, though it will be done in incremental phases, with the first phase being the opening the town’s historic 500-seat Ellis Theater currently under renovation to host concerts and other events.
First receiving grant money from the State of Mississippi in 2013, the $30 million project encompassing some 50,000 square feet of total space will eventually open a second phase, which will be an expansive museum to house and display Marty Stuart’s massive collection of over 20,000 individual pieces of country music memorabilia, as well as internationally traveling exhibits. Stuart is the largest private collector of country music artifacts, and regularly loans items to the Country Music Hall of Fame and other institutions for exhibits.
The third phase of the project will be an education center where lessons, lectures, presentations, and other events will be held. The project has been endorsed by the Grammy Museum, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, and the Library of Congress, and is expected to draw 28,000 and 49,000 visitors annually to Philadelphia. Private donations are also playing a big part in the financing of the project.
Earlier this month, Marty Stuart announced the appointment of Dr. Dan Barnard as the Congress of Country Music’s Executive Director. An award-winning composer, conductor, and arts presenter with a doctorate in music composition from the University of Kansas, Dr. Barnard helped open a new $26 million performing arts center in Brownsville, Texas, and also managed an 1100-seat performance hall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He also served as the Executive Director for the MSU Riley Center in Meridian, Mississippi.
“Having opened a brand-new venue once already, I know the immense satisfaction of seeing a new facility come to life and to be embraced by its community,” says Dr. Barnard. “In serving as the Executive Director for Marty Stuart Congress of Country Music and the Historic Ellis Theatre, my goal is to attract visitors from across the US while at the same time making life better for all of the Philadelphia community.”
On May 6th, Two Mississippi Museums in Jackson, Mississippi opened a new exhibit called “The World of Marty Stuart,” commemorating the Mississippi native’s career. There is also a 256-page book in the works that will compliment the exhibit. And not to be outdone, a sculpture of Marty Stuart called “The Pilgrim” rendered by Texas artist Craig Campobella was unveiled as part of of the museum exhibit (see below). After the exhibit ends, the sculpture will be moved to the Marty Stuart Congress of Country Music.
So if you’ve been wondering what Marty Stuart has been up to lately, this explains much of it. He’s been putting a final push behind finally getting his shrine to country music open to the public. By opening the Ellis Theater portion of the Congress of Country Music to performances, this will allow the organization and property begin to bring in revenue, which will hopefully help facilitate the completing of the project.
Marty Stuart will be taking a breather from all of this work on June 8th, when he will host his 19th Annual Late Night Jam at the Ryman Auditorium, which coincides with CMA Fest in Nashville. Scheduled to perform this year is Billy Strings—who Stuart recently performed with at The Ryman—as well as Connie Smith, Emmylou Harris, Marcus King, Lainey Wilson, Williams and Ree, Jontavious Willis, and Colt Clark and the Quarantine Kids.