Blues exhibit remains on display at Thomas Center

Published: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, July 30, 2013 at 6:32 p.m.

Did you know that Billie Holiday's birth name is Eleanora Fagan? Or that Mahalia Jackson, the queen of gospel and a Blues Hall of Fame inductee, sang only gospel and divorced her husband because of his relentless pressure for her to sing secular music?

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Dizzy Gillespie (1917-1993), left, was an American band leader and composer, and one of — if not the greatest — jazz trumpeteer of all time.

AIDA MALLARD/Special to the Guardian



What: “Blues Pioneers and Their Progeny” exhibit.

When: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday and 1-4 p.m. Sunday through Sept. 7.

Where: Mezzanine Gallery, Thomas Center, 302 NE 6th Ave.

Information: Call 352-393-8532.

If not, then you probably don't want to miss the "Blues Pioneers and their Progeny" exhibit for an opportunity to learn more about the giants who gave the world the blues.

You also can view their portraits and historic narratives and sample their music.

Sponsored by the city of Gainesville, the exhibit is free and open to the community from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday and 1-4 p.m. Sunday through Sept. 7 at the Mezzanine Gallery at the Thomas Center at 302 NE 6th Ave.

"The blues is the foundation for so much music of the 20th and 21st century," said Russell Etling, cultural affairs program coordinator at the city of Gainesville. The exhibit, which kicked off with an opening reception in May that featured a concert by Delta-style bluesman Willie Green of Ocala and the Gainesville-based R. Mutt Blues Band, features an art and music component and includes more than 40 colorful folk-art style illustrations of many of the 20th century's giants of the blues, as well as those legendary musicians they influenced.

"It (the exhibit) spans from W.C. Handy, the father of the blues, all the way to the current (artists)," Etling said. "We're getting a great response to the exhibit. People are engaged."

Featured artists include Billie Holiday, Etta James, Dizzie Gillespie, Duke Ellington, James Cotton, Koko Taylor, Mahalia Jackson, J.B. Lenoir, John Lee Hooker, Hubert Sumlin, Robert Johnson, B.B. King, Son House, Freddie King, Skip James, Louis Armstrong, Muddy Waters, Howklin' Wolf, Lead Belly, Tampa Red, Bessie Smith, Sippie Wallace, Willie Green, Buddy Guy, Bonnie Raitt, Leon Redbone, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, James Brown, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Robert Cray, Big Mama Thornton, W.C. Handy, Junior Wells and Ruth Brown.

Each portrait is accompanied by a brief description of the musicians' lives and their significant accomplishments and those viewing the exhibit also can access a representative recording on their smartphones from each of the artists' musical catalogs via at

"They (viewers) can listen to 41 songs that correspond to the art," said Etling, adding that most of the portraits are 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.

On display, too, are 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.

"Hopefully, it (the exhibit) will inspire viewers to do a little bit of research and listen to a great catalog of music for free." Etling said.

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