Southern Agenda

A Century of Wonder

Erin and Ben Napier’s series Home Town may have introduced the world to Laurel, Mississippi, when it premiered on HGTV in 2016, but residents of the hamlet have long been acquainted with the rest of the globe, thanks in part to its century-old Lauren Rogers Museum of Art. The museum represents a world tour on hyperspeed, where a John Singer Sargent landscape hangs alongside 150-year-old Native American baskets and nineteenth-century Japanese wood-block prints. “In our town, people have grown up now three or four generations with a free museum, and I really think it’s helped locals develop an appreciation for art at a young age,” says the museum’s director, George Bassi. Founded in 1923, the museum will host a weeklong centennial celebration the first week of May. The Lauren Rogers was named for the only grandson in an art-collecting family, who died unexpectedly at the age of twenty-three. “The museum,” Bassi says, “was his grandparents saying: If Lauren had lived, he would’ve done a lot for his community.”