The truly vibrant community of Bay St. Louis sings creativity and life, so it was no surprise that it was nominated as a Modern Mississippi site! Max the Modern Machine visited and met some of the extraordinary residents.
We met some of the citizens who are daring to differ, and it’s hard to believe that only eleven years ago the community was almost wiped out by Hurricane Katrina. The town’s history as an artist haven has not change, but the spirit of the community has been revitalized and brought back to life after experiencing such horrendous devastation.
Never losing its traditional, gentle seaside town vibe, it has embraced the old and celebrated the new—daring to differ with every step taken.
A huge thank you to Sandy Hartselle Maggie and Ann Madden of Smith & Lens, our hosts and modern ambassadors.
Another thank you to the Mockingbird Café for feeding and watering us with delicious treats on some of the hottest days this year!
We look forward to our next visit!
These are the stories we experienced while visiting this community. To find more stories about places and people from the area, explore the map.
“For people who aren’t from Mississippi to understand is that we cast the net wide with people who we love and who we bring into our lives. And I feel that because of the negative press that Mississippi gets everyone thinks we’re very close-minded and we’re set in our ways. And I feel that is the least from the truth because we are the Hospitality state.”-Rebekah
Grace and Christian Birch are based in both Bay St. Louis, Mississippi and New Orleans, Louisiana. They’re striving to integrate the best parts of how people have always lived into a modern world.
“When I tell people we live in Bay St. Louis there’s no scratching your head. They don’t’ ask why. People really love this town.”-Grace
“We have this beautiful old home that we’re sharing that’s been around since the 1880s. It’s just a gorgeous kind of—it lends itself to big center hall. It lends itself with a big garden around to just kind of living more slowly and taking time to enjoy it and be there in that moment.”-Christian
Allison and John Anderson own Unabridged Architecture in Bay St. Louis. They look to combine the modern with the historical and to be environmentally conscious.
“There’s a great community spirit here. There’s a great sense of resilience and the ability to recover from the kind of things that happen here, like hurricanes and oil spills. And that’s very inspirational.”-Allison
“Every great place that you go to that’s some sort of built urban environment is kind of a collage. A collage of different people or different thoughts, and all influenced by the climate. It’s a collage over time too, so we feel it’s very important that when we build something that people understand where that fits in kind of that big picture.”-John
Brian Wilemon recently started the Bay Ratz Marching Battery. After his son started percussion, Brian decided to start a drum line with a “punk rock aesthetic.” Children of all ages are a part of the Bay Ratz and liven up parades and events in Bay St. Louis, playing all types of percussion—traditional drums, hubcaps, cigar-box guitars, etc.
Alicen Wonderland and Julie Ragusa are the owners of The Mockingbird Café in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. After Hurricane Katrina, they both recognized the need for a space where the community could come and heal from tragedy together.
“Mississippi’s home, and this place in particular is magic. And it’s the people that make it so.”-Alicen
“I think this place attracts like-minded people. The Mockingbird and Bay St. Louis, Mississippi attracts like-minded people who celebrate diversity and who really appreciate diversity.”-Julie
Kandice Gunning has been a student for twenty-six years. Currently, she’s pursuing her Ph. D. in Hydrographic Science, mapping the Gulf’s oysters. Her energy propels her studies, as well as her community involvement. Kandice is willing to step into any role that the city needs—dancer, photographer, and florist.
“The creativity [here] is endless; it just goes on and on… I think I’m a Mississippian, an honorary member. They haven’t given me the knighting yet, but I’m expecting that very soon.”-Kandice
Kat Fitzpatrick, an artist in Bay St. Louis, found resilience and hope in the midst of Hurricane Katrina. After spending thirty years in the community, Kat can speak to the growth that Bay St. Louis has undergone.
“Well, I think that young people have the opportunity to come to Mississippi at the ground level of a new wave of creativity and quality of life that you don’t find everywhere. I mean, I can walk at night, I can lie down and watch meteor showers in a vacant lot and feel absolutely safe at two in the morning. I love that. That is true freedom to me.”-Kat
Ann Madden and Sandy Maggio are the owners of Smith and Lens in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. Smith and Lens is a city favorite, but Ann and Sandy have done more than just a run a business. Their contribution to Second Saturday, a Bay St. Louis tradition, is Frieda Fest. An annual event happening every July, Frieda Fest shows the modernity of Bay St. Louis.
“We wanted a place where people felt welcome, and there are so many creatives. And we have many friends who are business-women right here, and we just collaborate with each other. Turning an event that’s already happening, like Second Saturday, amping it up a bit…Everybody’s game.”-Ann
A journalist in Bay St. Louis, Jeff Clark has worked with big names, like Lou Reed and the Oasis; however, to him, Mississippi is home, and family is most important.
“It’s Mississippi, but it’s not Mississippi if that makes sense. We’re very, very proud to be Coasties. I think I like the political climate here, especially with things that have gone on in Mississippi recently… I think down here it’s been a lot of people standing up for what they believe in, and I’m proud to be in a community that’s like that.”-Jeff
President of The Arts Hancock County, President/Founder of the Raw Oyster Marching Club, and owner of The French Potager, Martha Whitney Butler is a major asset to the city of Bay St. Louis.
“I think claiming the fact that you’re an artist is a hard thing to do and a hard thing to get your head around. But that’s something that I found that happened to me, and that’s kind of what I’ve made my goal here in Bay St. Louis to do, is to push that person over the line to make them say ‘I am an artist,’ and be confident in it. To witness this community where everyone is an artist… One of those places where you can find yourself, and it leads to incredible things.”- Martha Whitney
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