City exhibit pays tribute to the blues masters

Published: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 at 3:06 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 at 3:06 p.m.

If you're inspired by the music of blues legends such as Bessie Smith, Howlin' Wolf, Billie Holiday, Muddy Waters and other legends, then you don't want to miss a reception and concert to kick off the opening of the "Blues Pioneers and Their Progeny" exhibit sponsored by the city of Gainesville.


Area blues great Willie Green of Ocala will perform during the opening of the city of Gainesville “Blues Pioneers and Their Progeny” exhibit at the Thomas Center. (Special to the Guardian)



What: The city of Gainesville “Blues Pioneers and Their Progeny” exhibit opening, with a reception and concert.
When: 6:30-9:30 p.m. May 30.
Where: Thomas Center, 302 NE 6th Ave.
Information: Call 352-393-8532 or visit

The exhibit will feature more than 40 colorful folk-art style illustrations of blues greats by Ty the Portrait Guy, a folk artist who painted a series of portraits of musicians who are considered legends in the American blues style of music. The free reception will feature a concert by Delta-style bluesman Willie Green of Ocala and the Gainesville-based R. Mutt Blues Band. Refreshments will be served.

The event will be held from 6:30-9:30 p.m. May 30 at the Thomas Center at 302 NE 6th Ave. Green will perform at 7:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. and the R. Mutt band will perform at 8 p.m. and will join Green at 8:30 p.m.

The exhibit will run through Sept. 7. Gallery hours are 8 a.m.- 5 p.m. Monday-Friday and 1-4 p.m. Saturday.

"We're trying to immerse the public into a multi-dimensional experience," said Russell Etling, cultural affairs program coordinator at the city of Gainesville.

He said the exhibit will feature more than 40 colorful folk-art illustrations of many of the 20th century blues giants, along with the musicians they influenced.

"The blues spans the 20th century and into the 21st century, and it's unique American music that has spread to the world," Etling noted. "It's an extraordinary contribution by the African-American community."

In addition, on display will be two images of Green, an acrylic on canvas by Gainesville artist Robert Ponzio, and a digital image by Glenn Hastings, executive director of the Tourist Development Council in St. Augustine.

Etling said each portrait will be accompanied by a brief description of the musician's life and their significant accomplishments. Also, viewers will get the opportunity to access a representative recording on their smartphones from musical catalogues of each of the artists.

"Its (the exhibit) focus is to shed light on the great history of the blues and to inspire people to listen to classic recordings that survived," Etling said. "And to let the spirit move them at a live concert of blues music playing today."

Etling said the illustrations by Guy, whose whereabouts are unknown, were purchased by the city of Gainesville from a gallery in Indiana.

Etling said the goal of the reception is for visitors to appreciate the beauty of the portraits, get an overview of the history of the blues and the great artists, and be exposed to great music.

Etling said Green, who is in his 70s, is a self-taught musician of both the harmonica and the guitar. He is a widely respected artist who has opened shows for American blues musicians such as John Hammond Jr., John Lee Hooker Jr., James Cotton and British musician Eric Clapton, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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