As Chicago recently held its annual Blues Fest, Harold Washington College’s 11th Floor Gallery (30 E. Lake St., in the Loop) is presenting an exhibit of archival photographs curated by the Chicago Blues Museum called Unsung Bronzeville—Cultural Incubator of Sound, which provides a glimpse into the beginnings of popular music in Chicago.
Unsung Bronzeville, runs through the end of the month, explores Chicago’s Blues, R&B and Soul music scene of the 1940s through 1970s with its early beginnings in Bronzeville, the same neighborhood former mayor Harold Washington, and college namesake, was born and raised.
The exhibit showcases a selection of Chicago Blues Museum archival photographic images of homegrown Chicago musicians, entertainers, and performers, as well as places and companies where this popular music originated and evolved.
The exhibit’s images document music icons in historic neighborhood nightclubs and venues like the Club DeLisa, Checkerboard and the 708 Club where talented artists honed their skills and later recorded much of their work for the music studios and labels on Record Row, first located in Bronzeville, then on South Michigan Avenue. Featured are (among others) Chicago Blues pioneers Big Bill Broonzy, Howlin’ Wolf, and Muddy Waters; DeLisa jazz legends Red Saunders, Joe Williams, Sun Ra, and the celebrated chorus line; R&B greats Dinah Washington, and Jackie Wilson; gospel/soul innovators Sam Cooke, the Staple Singers, and Chaka Khan; and Record Row legends The Chi-Lites, The Dells, and Producer Carl Davis.
The exhibit also highlights artists at the famed Regal Theater, where over four decades Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Dinah Washington, B.B. King, Sam Cooke, Nat King Cole, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, the Jackson 5 and many others performed.
“This is an opportunity to educate our students and the public about the music’s social and cultural impact. These musical genres are significant to our city’s identity and culture, which is why this exhibit is so important. The exhibit is extra special because Harold Washington was a big supporter of the arts and Blues music,” says Ignacio Lopez, Harold Washington College president.
“The Chicago Blues Museum is pleased to present Unsung Bronze- ville at the college to share with students, faculty and the public during Black Music Month,” said Gregg Parker, who founded the Chicago Blues Museum in 1991. “Bronzeville, with its rich musical and cultural legacy, has been the heart of Chicago’s African-American community for a century; I grew up in this neighborhood, as did Sam Cooke and many others.”
Harold Washington College remains committed to community and culture and the arts, just as the former mayor was. The college offers basic certificate programs in Music Business and Music Technology, was well as programs in dance (and a partnership with the Joffrey Ballet). The college is also recognized as the City Colleges of Chicago’s Center of Excellence for Business and Professional Services.
Exhibit hours are Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. – 2 p.m., Saturday 9:00 a.m. – 4 p.m. School groups and exhibit tours can be scheduled by calling 312-553-3150.
For more information on the Chicago Blues Museum, call 773-723-5031.