Looking Ahead
11:39 pm
Sun January 5, 2014

National Blues Museum Enters The Final Planning Phase

In December 2013, the National Blues Museum project in St. Louis took a giant step forward with the announcement that Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. and Lumiere Place Casino had pledged $6 million in funding for the museum as part of its agreement St. Louis to invest in downtown projects.

Credit Provided by National Blues Museum

After that $6 million donation, Rob Endicott, chairman of the board of directors for the National Blues Museum, said in a St. Louis Beacon article that he believed a late 2014 date for the official opening of the Museum at 601 Washington Ave. (former home of the Dillard’s store in the Laurel building) was a goal that remained within reach.

That opening is now on track for Memorial Day weekend in 2015. But as Endicott said a year ago, “We’d love to be able to do it faster, but we also want to make sure we do it right.”

Over the past year, The National Blues Museum organization has primarily worked behind the scenes to make the museum a reality.

Public events had been held, such as the debut of the museum’s Film and Lecture Series featured presentations by music historian Robert Santelli, Memphis songwriter-producer David Porter and documentary films like “M for Mississippi.”

The fourth annual Bluesweek Festival over Memorial Day weekend also brought more awareness for the museum effort – as well as donations.

Planning and design

Recently, we checked in with Endicott and Mike Kociela. The latter is co-founder of the National Blues Museum project as well as the producer of Bluesweek through his company, Entertainment St. Louis.

“Things are looking good,” Endicott said. “The money that Pinnacle promised to the museum came through, and we’ve really focused on drilling down and making progress on the initial phases of planning and design for the Museum. We’ve started the ball rolling with the exhibit designers, and the designs are really coming along. We’re now figuring out how to translate what’s on paper into what can be done with hammer and nails.”

Kociela agrees: “I’d say we’re at the 95 percent completion level in terms of design. We know the storyline from start to finish of the exhibits, and we’re happy with the way it’s shaping up in terms of being both educational and entertaining.”

Now that the basic flow of the museum’s exhibit space has been laid out, the focus is on gathering things.

“We’re starting the artifact process,” Kociela says. “We need to identify what we want to have on exhibit -- and figure out how we want to go about getting that accomplished.”

The sheer complexity of the process has caused the planned date for the debut of the National Blues Museum to slip. The plan is to have the museum opening coincide with the 2015 Bluesweek Festival, which will be held over Memorial Day weekend.

A blues radio show

In the meantime, expect the museum to stay in the public eye in 2014.

“We’re looking to continue the film and lecture series in 2014, and are in the underwriting process with that,” says Endicott. “And we’re also working with the Radio Arts Foundation to put together a blues show. It does primarily classical programming, but currently has four hours of jazz on the schedule every week and is interested in presenting blues. Christian Cudnik will be the executive producer of the show, and we’re planning on getting it on the schedule in February.”

Bluesweek 2014, scheduled for May 23 through May 25, will also be a major awareness effort for the Blues Museum.

“The National Blues Museum effort actually got its start through the first Bluesweek festival in 2010,” says Kociela. “And we definitely want to increase awareness for the museum at this year’s festival – especially looking forward to the opening in 2015.”

For more information about the National Blues Museum Project and the annual Bluesweek Festival, visit www.nationalbluesmuseum.org and www.stlbluesweek.com.