Plans for a National Museum of Gospel Music in Chicago Unveiled

Museum proposed by Businessman Don Jackson will highlight the genre, the artists and Chicago's rich history as the birthplace of Gospel Music; Venue will Bring Tourism to the City's South Side
By: National Museum of Gospel Music
3D image: Proposed National Museum of Gospel Music in Chicago
3D image: Proposed National Museum of Gospel Music in Chicago
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CHICAGO - Dec. 15, 2017 - PRLog -- Gospel music was born on Chicago's South Side, a new and wholly American genre imagined into being by blues musician Thomas A. Dorsey in the wake of a personal tragedy, and nurtured inside the historic Pilgrim Baptist Church in the city's celebrated Bronzeville neighborhood. This unique form of Christian music was part of the cultural attraction in the Black Metropolis, a destination that attracted tens of thousands of Black Americans migrating from the South to the North.

That beginning, and the rich history that followed, will be examined and celebrated at the new National Museum of Gospel Music, to be constructed on the grounds of the famed Pilgrim Baptist, located at 3301 S. Indiana Ave.  The historic Bronzeville structure, designed in 1890 by world renowned architectural firm Adler & Sullivan, was demolished and left in ruins following a devastating fire in January 2006.

Don Jackson, CEO of Central City Productions and founder of the Stellar Gospel Music Awards, is leading the project, which he hopes to open in September of 2020, the month designated by former President Barack Obama as Gospel Music Heritage Month. Details were unveiled at a press conference on December 8 at the Illinois Institute of Technology's College of Architecture's S.R. Crown Hall, 3360 S. State St. Guests included gospel artists and prominent Chicago religious, political, community and business leaders.

"The National Museum of Gospel will be one of the biggest attractions for Chicago, and for the world, to have a place to gather and reflect upon the rich heritage of gospel music.  Nothing like it exists right now," said Jackson, who created the first and oldest annual televised awards show honoring gospel music artists for the past 32 years."

"'In the words of one of our strongest supporters, Rev. Clay Evans, a legend in Chicago's religious circles and in gospel music, "We have Soldier Field; We have Navy Pier; We have the Chicago Bulls, but we do not have a gospel museum, and this is what we need.' Chicago will be missing out on such an important opportunity if it does not develop this museum, which will reestablish this city as the birthplace of gospel music.

The concept is similar to what the city of Nashville has done in building the first National Museum of African American Music which is also scheduled for completion in 2020, to expand Nashville's "Music City" theme beyond Country and Western music genre to include the popular music genre of African American Music.

Jackson added, "Pilgrim Baptist Church was a part of the building up of the Bronzeville community and contributed to its rich history. If there is any location that should be considered for a gospel museum, it should be on the former Pilgrim Baptist Church site in the Bronzeville community."

Architect Dirk Lohan of Wight & Company said, "We are combining the wonderful exterior stone walls by Louis Sullivan, which survived a devastating fire, with a new building for the National Museum of Gospel Music. We believe this new museum will be a welcome addition to the cultural and touristic life of Chicago."

Michelangelo Sabatino, dean of the Illinois Institute of Technology's College of Architecture, applauds the vision. "We welcome the transformation of a landmark, the Adler & Sullivan site, into the home of the National Museum of Gospel Music," said Sabatino, whose college is located a few blocks west of the proposed museum. "The proposed project by developer Don Jackson, Central City Productions, and architect Dirk Lohan, of Wight & Company, will transform this site into a museum showcase for international and local culture." Mr. Jackson went to the St. James Church just two blocks away from the proposed site for the museum.  Mr. Lohan is the grandson of noted architect Ludwig Mies van derRohe.

Hailed as the father of gospel music, Thomas Dorsey had always been torn between sacred and secular music.  Following the death of his wife and child, he composed pieces that combined sacred text with secular musical elements drawn from the blues, creating the new genre of gospel.  Dorsey served as the music director at Pilgrim Baptist Church from 1932 until the late 1970's.  Notable singers who have performed at Pilgrim Baptist include: Sallie Martin, Aretha Franklin, Mahalia Jackson, James Cleveland and the Staples Singers. Mr. Dorsey also founded the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses.

Dr. Marabeth Gentry, president of the gospel choirs and choruses' organization founded by Mr. Dorsey, believes Mr. Jackson is the ideal project leader. "He understands the industry and the importance of the history. That he wants to do this for gospel music speaks volumes."

The new National Museum of Gospel Music will feature:

●       45,000 square feet

●       Multigenerational programming and educational exhibits

●       Auditorium seating up to 350 designed for television production

●      Exclusive video archives and collection of the Stellar Gospel Music Awards programming

●      Listening and research library

●       Café and retail store

●       Rental facilities for special events and community use

For more information visit: The National Museum of Gospel (

Kitty Kurth
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Tags:Chicago, Gospel Music, National Museum
Location:Chicago - Illinois - United States
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