in ,

The Centennial Celebration of the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art


The Lauren Rogers Museum and the city of Laurel are amid a celebration that has been a century in the making. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the world-class museum of art has been a cornerstone for Laurel and the state and has brought a collection of fine art and education together for the world to enjoy.

 For the Centennial Celebration of the museum, it is hosting many exceptional exhibits this year in addition to its impressive permanent collection at the museum. Although the official celebration for the museum begins in May, this momentous occasion is being celebrated throughout the year.

  “We are so very blessed to have this world-class museum in our own backyard, and having this impressive institution in our midst for 100 years calls for a wonderful celebration of the museum and the man that it is named for,” George Bassi, director of the Lauren Rogers Museum, said.

 The legacy that the Lauren Rogers Museum brings to the city is forever engrained in the roots of Laurel. The history of how the museum came to be is one of tragedy but tempered with a celebration of the life of the remarkable young man that never got to accomplish many of his dreams for himself and the city that nurtured him. 

Lauren Rogers was the only son and grandson of two of the city’s founding families. The Eastman, Gardiner, and Rogers families had moved to Laurel in the 1890s to help develop the timber industry in the area. The families were instrumental in the foundation of the city and the formation of many of the town’s public parks and schools. Lauren Rogers was groomed to take over the family’s lumber business and philanthropic legacy for the city, but this very talented young man’s dreams would not come true.

  In 1921 just months after marrying his true love Lelia Hodson, Lauren Rogers passed away at the age of 23 from complications of appendicitis. This tragedy rocked the foundation of these families and the community, but they vowed not to let his life and legacy end with his death. 

Lauren Rogers

Lauren’s father, Wallace Brown Rogers, and his maternal grandfather Lauren Chase Eastman created the Eastman Memorial Foundation “to promote the public welfare by founding, endowing, and maintaining a public library, museum, art gallery, and educational institution within the state of Mississippi, and in the structure that was being built as a wedding gift and family home for Lauren Rogers and his bride. The Lauren Rogers Museum of Art was opened on May 1, 1923, becoming the first art museum in the state.

“The family’s prescribed to the old Victorian beliefs of making something good from a tragedy, and they developed this wonderful legacy of art and education to honor Lauren Rogers,” Bassi said. “They believed that he would make a positive impact in his community, and they did not want to let that legacy die with him. They wanted to develop a strong center of education and art to honor his memory.”

 Education and appreciation of the arts were crucial to these founding families. They wanted to create a structure that would serve and support future generations of the city and the world. The museum was home to the local library and displayed the impressive art collection of these founding families. Donated by Lauren Rogers’ great aunt, Catherine Marshall Gardiner, the first collection featured in the museum gallery was her extensive collection of traditional and unique baskets. This exhibit is one of the many impressive collections on permanent display at the museum. 

In 1925, a new wing was constructed, giving the museum five art galleries on the first floor, and room for the Laurel Library Association was housed on the lower level until 1979. These beautiful galleries are home to the incredible collections of art donated by the Rogers and Eastman families.

 Significant collectors of art, the families donated their impressive collection of 19th and 20th-century paintings to the museum, including works by well-known artists, such as Winslow Homer, Albert Bierstadt, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, and Jean-Francois Millet. These are on permanent display to this day as the museum also hosts many impressive collections displayed in these hallowed halls.

During this year of celebration, the museum is hosting many impressive visiting collections that must be enjoyed as this young man’s life and this incredible foundation that has served as the cornerstone for the community and the state. The legacy of this exceptional foundation of devotion to education and the arts will be celebrated throughout the year, and this celebration is one that you want to attend.

“I would definitely encourage those that have never been to the museum to pay a visit and experience the impressive collection of art that we are so blessed to be home to,” Bassi said. “If you have grown up with this wonderful museum and have visited it before, we welcome you back to see the exceptional collections that we will be hosting this year and the collections that we have loved and admired throughout the years. This is a remarkable milestone for the museum, and we welcome everyone to celebrate and honor the impressive legacy that the Lauren Rogers Museum has founded in our city.”

For more information on the museum and the events scheduled this year, please visit the official website of the museum at LRMA – Lauren Rogers Museum of Art | Laurel, MS.

Photos courtesy of the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art.


Written by Judy Smith

Judy Smith has been a freelance writer and photographer for several magazines and publications around the South, including Social South Magazine, Our Mississippi Magazine, DeSoto Magazine, Deep South Magazine, Country Roads Magazine, among others. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Paralegal Studies, Master’s of Science in Mass Communications, and PhD in Communications at the University of Southern Mississippi. And Judy Smith is proud to forever be a Mississippi Girl.


Leave a Reply

What do you think?

Vung Tau

Vietnamese Restaurant, Vung Tau, Shines in Point Cadet

Prep hoops: Hattiesburg slips past Picayune 55-50 to capture the 2023 Class 5A boys’ state championship