AUTHOR: TABOR

What: "Palaces of St. Petersburg: Russian Imperial Style Exhibition"

When: Through Aug. 31

Where: Mississippi Arts Pavilion, downtown Jackson

Admission: Ticket prices are $12 for adults; $11 for seniors (60-plus) and $3 for children through the 12th grade. For special for groups of 20 or more, call 1-800-960-9900. For individual tickets and information, call 1-800-409-9959.

Exhibition hours: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. (last admission at 8 p.m.), seven days a week.

By Terri Tabor

Daily Journal

Now that the United States has bid farewell to the Olympics, it can say "hello" again to the "Palaces of St. Petersburg: Russian Imperial Style Exhibition" in Jackson.

With the 197 countries' exit of Atlanta, the Mississippi Arts Pavilion is once again the cultural melting pot of the South with the hundreds of pounds of gold and other priceless jewels and stones brought in from four Russian palaces of St. Petersburg.

"Without question this is the cultural event in the United States," says Jack Kyle, executive director of the exhibit.

With three weeks and a day remaining until the exhibition's close, Kyle encourages Mississippians not to miss out on the exclusive opportunity. "We will close on Saturday (Aug. 31) at the end of the day," he says. Kyle predicts the last week of August to be the exhibition's busiest yet and says that prospective visitors should call in advance to reserve tickets. Monday through Thursdays, he adds, are the best days to beat the crowds.

The exhibit, which opened to the public March 1, consists of more than 600 objects drawn from the Peterhof Palace, Catherine Palace, Gatchina Palace and Pavlovsk Palace. Russian artisans were commissioned to replicate five rooms of the palaces from which the objects were derived. The nearly $9 million project marks the first collaborative effort of the palace museums in an exhibition outside of Russia and represents the largest exhibition ever presented from Russian museums outside of Russia and the largest Russian exhibition ever presented in the United States.

Since its opening, the exhibit has attracted a wealth of national attention including a rave review by Mississippi native and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Eudora Welty, who called the exhibition in a New York Times article, "the biggest commotion in Jackson since they paved the streets."

Other publications who have given the exhibition full coverage or a mention include Architectural Digest, which devoted a three-and-a-half page article with 10 color photos to the exhibit; The Washington Times; Atlanta Constitution Journal; and Travel and Leisure.

It's this media attention, Kyle believes, that has helped attract international visitors from Ghana to Germany and "all parts in between."

Kyle said he had talked with visitors who had even chartered planes to Jackson to view the exhibit. "That is a frequent occurrence," he says.

To date the exhibition is about 50,000 shy of its 500,000 ticket sale goal. "I'm confidently optimistic we'll exceed 500,000," Kyle said. "I think the people in Mississippi realize this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

Although a Russian exhibit of this significance may never land in the state again, plans are already under way for another exclusive exhibition in 1998. Kyle said he recently spent a week in France exploring the possibilities of an exclusive French exhibit.

Overall, Kyle has been pleased with the state and world's interest in the "Palaces of St. Petersburg," but, most of all, he relishes in the impact the exhibition has had on Mississippi school children. More than 130,000 tickets were reserved for school children to tour the exhibit.

"We think that is just absolutely important," he said adding that serving school children fulfills their main goal of impacting education.

"That is something you can't buy," Kyle adds.

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