The Alice Moseley Museum
- story and photos by Ellis Anderson
She started a new career when she was sixty-five and then, at eighty, uprooted her whole life to move to a new town 300 miles away where she only had a few contacts. The widow bought a historic cottage by the depot, painted it bright blue and set up her studio. Some paintings manifested her memories of life in the South. Others were born from her sharp sense of humor. As her fame spread, tour buses began dropping off loads of visitors from around the country. She’d put on her red beret, sit in her rocking chair and tell them stories that would have them howling with laughter.
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The museum is so popular, Myrna Green, director of Hancock Tourism says that over half of the 20,000 people who stopped into the Visitors’ Center last year also visited the museum. That means over 10,000 people from around the world have enjoyed Alice’s art in the past year alone. One weekday in late October, this writer found six visitors in the museum. Two of them were from South Carolina, two were new residents of Biloxi – by way of Australia – and a third couple hailed from England. It was their third time to visit the museum.
Brook is passionate about her work. She believes that the Moseley Museum is the “best-kept secret in Mississippi.”
“Her zest for life was matchless,” says Brook. “She painted up until right before her passing. And she continues inspiring us now. You can walk through the museum and look at all the portraits and paintings and appreciate how far we’ve come. Remembering the past makes us better each day, remembering where we’ve come from and what we’ve gone through.”
Tim Moseley said his mother’s values often showed up in her work. “She had very progressive ideas about civil rights. My mom wanted to make clear that her paintings were a tribute to the people who survived those times and those injustices… My mom considered herself one of those people… If you were in Mississippi and you were a sharecropper, it didn’t matter if you were black or white, there wasn’t going to be any cash money come your way.”
Tim attributes a big part of Moseley’s appeal to her storytelling talents, both verbally and in her paintings.
“It’s not just how good an artist is, it’s the stories they tell and how well they connect with people.”
A good example is a one of the museum’s most popular paintings, called “Labor Vs. Management.” Alice has painted a farmer trying to plow, but his mule is sitting down. The farmer in raging at the mule, but it’s clear the creature has no intention of budging.
Tim Moseley explains the thought behind the painting: “Either you’re labor and think that your boss asks more than anyone has a right to expect or you’re the boss and you think that your labor’s just sitting down on you while you’re paying good money."
“Miss Alice is our Shero,” Brook says, smiling. "She was a woman of true courage, someone we all need to emulate in one way or another."
Alice Moseley’s nephew, Birmingham businessman and frequent Bay St. Louis visitor Mike Krawcheck agrees. He says that Alice Moseley and the town of Bay St. Louis share the same plucky DNA. He points to the way the town’s residents showed courage and determination after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 as proof of their similarity to his aunt.
“They’re the kind of people who confront adversity and challenge turn it around to everyone’s advantage,” he says.
“My aunt was flat out indefatigable. She described the time she spent in BSL as the best time of her life. She flourished there.”
Alice’s son Tim agrees. “She really did think that the pot of gold was at the end of the rainbow in Bay St. Louis.”