An agreement has been reached with the Philadelphia-Neshoba County Arts Council for the historic Ellis Theater to be acquired by the Marty Stuart Center, it was announced Monday night during the Community Development Partnership banquet.

Liza Cirlot Looser of the Cirlot Agency Inc., the guest speaker who is over marketing for the Stuart Center,  made the announcement, telling the over 300 people in attendance that it was time to “put your Sunday dress on, I think company is coming to town!”

Community Development Partnership President David Vowell said, under the agreement, the Arts Council would continue to host plays, musicals and other events in the Ellis for the community as they have through the years. The Stuart Center, however, will invest in improvements to the theater in the near future, he said.

Looser said residents would see a “big difference immediately or in a matter of months” in the Ellis.

She was asked to come on board with the Stuart Center by her friend Robert Khayat, former chancellor of the University of Mississippi, who is a member of the Center’s steering committee.

Looser, Vowell, Khayat, Stuart and others working on the project met recently in Nashville.

“Marty really has a passion for this and a great vision,” Looser said, noting how amazed she was to learn that he is so well respected in the country music industry on a national and international basis.

Stuart told Looser that when he left Philadelphia on Labor Day in 1972, he knew it would be a long time before he returned.

“But I knew I would come home,” she quoted him as saying.

The Stuart Center would be a “creative outlet for the world to follow me home,” he said.

She said the Stuart Center would be a treasure for Philadelphia which will last forever.

Looser said such noted people as Ken Burns, Chief Phyllis J. Anderson, Charlie Pride, Connie Smith, Stuart and others make up the advisory committee for the Stuart Center.

Among those on the steering committee are Khayat, Stuart, Philadelphia native Dan Jordan and former Gov. Haley Barbour, among others.

“They are all so gracious to give of their time and support toward the center,” she said.

A “working board” is currently being compiled for the Stuart Center, she said.

“Marty is so excited that he can get the world to come to Philadelphia,” she said, noting that fundraising would begin soon for the center.

The Stuart Center will be in the buildings adjacent to the Ellis on the corner of Byrd Avenue and along Main Street which house A1 Maytag, Tri-State Consulting Services and Advanced Auto.

The site will officially be called the “Marty Stuart Congress of Country Music,” Stuart said, noting that congress means “gathering place.”

The center will showcase Stuart’s vast collection of country music memorabilia, including some belonging to such stars as Patsy Cline, Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash.  Stuart’s vast photography collection as well as his and wife Connie Smith’s personal memorabilia will also be included.

Stuart holds the largest private collection of country music artifacts in the world and has been recognized by the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress.

Some pieces have held residence in the Country Music Hall of Fame, Ryman Auditorium, Grand Ole Opry Museum, Grammy Museum, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and several others around the nation and world.