Music critic gets an early peek at National Blues Museum

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. Artist residencies will be formed, as well.

• The museum will feature two national headlining concerts each year.

• Actor Morgan Freeman narrates the first video patrons will see when they enter the museum.

• St. Louisan Chuck Berry has a dedicated area, complete with a look at his signature duckwalk move.

• The museum will have an area focusing on social media’s influence on the blues.

• A traveling exhibit area with views of Washington Avenue will also serve as a rental space. Traveling exhibits will be mounted for three-month periods.

• The marriage of hip-hop and the blues is featured in an area that includes Nas and Kendrick Lamar.

• Women of the blues get their own wing.

• The museum shares a wall with neighbor Sugarfire Smoke House, which opens in 2016. The museum and restaurant also share a designer.

• The outside marquee, surely to bee big and bright, remains under wraps. We think it should be unveiled soon to more firmly establish the museum’s presence downtown.

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