African-American museum is being built in Gainesville


Published: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 2:02 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 2:02 p.m.

On Feb. 6, the Gainesville Guardian published a column written by Philoron Wright titled "Revisit concept of African-American museum."

In the column, Wright called upon organizations and individuals in the community to develop and support an effort to establish an African-American museum in Gainesville. He concluded the column by stating, "We must build upon our roots and establish genuine connections for our rising generations to learn about events and people of the past. It is our responsibility to share our story and history with our children."

We, the Board of Directors of the Cotton Club Museum and Cultural Center wholeheartedly support Wright's call for the establishment of an African-American museum in Gainesville and invite him and others in the community to join us in an already established effort to create such a museum.

Our effort to create an African-American museum and cultural center began in 1997 with the founding of the Cotton Club Board of Directors. Since that time, the board has worked to restore the old Cotton Club building — along with the other buildings on the site located at 837 SE 7th Ave. in Gainesville — in order to build a museum and cultural center.

Much progress has been made toward restoring the old Cotton Club building, including the stabilization of its foundation, the restoration and painting of its exterior and the installation of a new roof. Additionally, we have constructed a new adjoining building to house restrooms and restored one of the shotgun houses to serve as office space for the project.

Yes, progress has been made, thanks to the generosity of many and the hard work of board members to secure funding, most of which has come from a $300,000 state of Florida Historic Society Preservation grant, the Gainesville Community Redevelopment Agency, the University of Florida Powell Center for Construction and Environment, Plum Creek, Perry Roofing Co., the Pantry, the Santa Fe College East Gainesville Instruction, fundraisers by the board and donations from community groups and individuals.

As we celebrate our accomplishments, there is still much to be done. The immediate goal is to complete the Cotton Club building and open it as a multipurpose center. The building, when completed, will seat 200-plus persons and will be available for performances, weddings, reunions and meetings, in addition to housing museum displays. The cost to complete the second phase is about $600,000. Working together as a community, we can make this museum a reality.

Again, we invite those who are passionate about having an African-American museum in Gainesville to join the Cotton Club project.

Those who wish to become involved may do so by contacting Vivian Filer, chair of the board, at vivianfiler@att.net or by calling 352-376-9956. You also can contact Filer to schedule a tour for your group.

In the spirit of Ujima (collective work and responsibility), we can complete the Cotton Club Museum and Cultural Center, an African-American museum for the Gainesville community, and share our story and history with our children and all posterity.

Cotton Club Museum and Cultural

Center Board of Directors,

Gainesville

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