St. Louis is getting a first look at some rare blues photographs in a traveling exhibition opening this weekend at the National Blues Museum.
“The Sepia Magazine Photo Archive: Blues in Review” showcases largely unseen images that originated in Sepia, the classic African-American magazine. The Fort Worth, Texas-based publication by George Levitan ceased operation in 1983.
St. Louis is the first city where “Blues in Review” will be seen; museum visitors can view the exhibit in the Scott and Diane McCuaig and Family Gallery through Oct. 13.
A lot of these photographs have never been seen beyond their original publication,” says exhibit curator Carole L. Anthony. “You could chalk that up to a number of reasons.”
She says the photos sat ignored in boxes for many years.
Thirty-five images are featured in the exhibit. Some blues artists are featured in multiple photos, including B.B. King, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, Jimmy Reed and Ruth Brown.
After more than four years of writing about the National Blues Museum, opening April 2 at 615 Washington Avenue, I finally got a look inside the $13 million structure.
My preview happened while on the premises for the fifth anniversary party of Maplewood-based V Three Studios, the museum’s design firm. The event also featured the first concert performance at the museum, by St. Louis’ own Marquise Knox.
Museum executive director Dion Brown led me through the single-story, 23,000-square-foot museum for an informal tour and chat. Here are some takeaways from my visit:
• The museum is a lot more finished that you’d imagine. Brown told me in November that work was 97 percent complete.
• The interactive create-your-own blues song and name exhibits are up and running.
• The performance area will hold up to 180 people. Live music will happen daily at noon, 2 and 4 p.m., allowing musicians to keep their regular nightly gigs. Live music will also be featured Thursday through Saturday evenings. A...