“I grew up in Lexington, Mississippi. Ever since the day I painted my name on her bedside table at three years old, my mom has said I was artistic. I never stopped. I wrote my name on everything I owned and didn’t own. In high school, I designed yearbook covers and t-shirts. In college, I majored in educational psychology because I always thought art was just something I could do for fun. It was when I was home with my first baby that I realized art could be my career. It will never be a job as long as it’s fun.
I tried for several years to get studio space at the Triangle Cultural Center in the heart of downtown Yazoo City. I finally got this studio two years ago. The building was built in 1904 and was originally a schoolhouse. It’s the perfect place for me to create. I am a self-taught artist who learned by trying and failing. This year, I started taking art lessons for the first time to go back and learn the basics.
In the last few years, I have seen positive changes in Yazoo City. Young people are buying older houses downtown and renovating them. Several people bought houses they saw on the “For the Love of Old Houses” Facebook page and moved to Yazoo City just to transform the homes back to what they used to be.
Unfortunately, the Triangle is in danger of collapsing and in need of its own transformation. Bricks are falling off the exterior walls, and 2×4’s are propping up parts of the ceiling on the inside. Rain leaks down the walls and into the basement. We haven’t had air conditioning in the building for a year. After sweating all day, I wrote a letter to the editor of the Yazoo Herald describing the condition of the Triangle. I’ve never done anything like that, but somebody had to stand up and say something. I am also trying to get it nominated as one of this year’s Ten Most Endangered Historic Places to receive a grant and aid from the Mississippi Heritage Trust. The more votes the Triangle gets, the better its chances for the nomination.
The building has its own history and personality, and the beautiful floors tell their own story. When the sunlight hits the main floor, you can see all of the dents, grooves and lines. I imagine the people who have walked these halls for over 100 years. My mother-in-law was a member of the organizations that helped get the Yazoo history museum started and made it something special. She put so much time and love into it. There are fossils from 45,000 years ago, Native American relics, and pictures from the flood of 1927. There are exhibits about Jerry Clower, Stella Stevens, Willie Brown, Robert Johnson, Zig Ziglar and Casey Jones.
Writer Willie Morris is part of that history and the museum. He went to school here and loved to write in the library next door. We have typed pages of notes from his book North Towards Home. There’s just something about downtown Yazoo City that inspires artists and writers. There is so much to learn in this building, but if we don’t do something to save it, all of the work of past generations to preserve our history will be in vain.
There has been little help from the city, so we have to find other ways to save it. We can’t wait until it’s too late.”
Here is the letter Olivia wrote to the Yazoo Herald.
Dear fellow citizens of Yazoo,
I would like to reintroduce you to a familiar place in our downtown that for more than a century has been an important landmark in our community. When you come to the intersection of Main and Washington Street -look around… you are staring right at an important piece of Yazoo history. The triangular shaped lot that is formed by this busy intersection holds memories common to so many Yazooans. The triangle has been the site of countless parades, festivals, and community events. This plot of land is home to the old Main Street school (1904-1975) now the Triangle Cultural Center (1975-present,) and our beautiful B.S. Ricks Memorial Library.
This brings me to the importance of community, and what it means for places such as the Triangle. Surely no other building still standing in Yazoo houses as many memories and emotions such as this one.
If these walls and halls could talk, they would profoundly reminisce on what all they have seen. They would tell you about witnessing many first times such as when kindergartners learned to read. The excitement and wonder in their eyes when they were praised by their teachers! We heard many giggles as students passed notes under desks. There have been a plethora of skinned knees, and too many bandaids to count. Oh, we can’t forget about the musicals, and plays. Those were the days! The way the acoustics took their notes all over this big place. We will never forget the armistice of WWI and the teachers crying “Children, oh, children, the war is over! Thank God, it’s over!” The parade that followed this joyous occasion and the hardships to come. Oh, but we prevailed! We recall the many graduates that passed through our doors, spelling bees, and all of the recitals that were held here. We were even present when the cries of grieving children rang through our halls as they were told their daddies would not be returning home from WWII. The war came to an end which marked the ending of an era, and the turning of a page. We watched quietly as children read their daily assignments amidst our towering walls and large windows.
When it was announced that the building would close as a school, we waited and wondered what would happen to this old place. Our community quickly stepped up to save us. They did more than salvage our structure, they preserved our town history, and more than proudly displayed it. It is all still here today in our amazing museum. Our walls and creaky floors await the next curious person to come wandering through our town’s past history. All credited to a community that cared, and put their ideas into action. A type of community that our walls and halls so desperately long for today!
Now, citizens of this community must know, and see the pivotal stage we are facing in our town. If we do not band together as the faithful community we once were, and bring this back to the respected structure that it once was, then who will? The hard work and endeavors of our community’s past will be in vain.
As I sit in my art studio on the north side of the triangle, my heart stirs with so much emotion when I think of the downfall of this beloved building. I hope this letter stirs an emotion within you, and also may it bring awareness to the dire situation we are facing.
Lastly, these walls and halls long to hear the notes of a piano, the lines from a play, the roar of an audience, the pitter patter of little ballerina feet, and the multitude of sounds coming from within! If this makes you feel any sort of way, please reach out to me to come listen, and take a look at what this building has to offer for our community!
Written sincerely from the heart of someone who loves this building, the history it holds, and the life it has left in it!
From Lynn: Yazoo City is my hometown. I grew up taking ballet and baton lessons at the Triangle in an old classroom with mirrors that reached from the wood floor to the high ceiling. As Ms. Christie taught the three positions or plié and relevé, I watched out the big windows as folks walked along Main Street or the Delta sunset made the room and floors glow orange. There were art camps at the Triangle and chances to sing and dance on stage–the first time for many Yazoo kids to give those a try. Some of those programs were organized by my mom to have good activities for my brother and me. The Triangle has provided education and arts in Yazoo City for 117 years, but it may not be around for many more.
Every town needs an Olivia who can see the magic and significance of these places. Who fights to stand up for them. Who encourages the community to join in.
Here is the link to the nomination form. The deadline for voting is Aug.1:
The Triangle address is: 322 N Main St, Yazoo City, MS 39194