A Longtime Dream
Since its earliest days, The Blues Foundation has envisioned a Blues Hall of Fame. Artist renditions appeared as early as the 1983 Blues Music Awards program. The Foundation’s leaders have long recognized that, in addition to stability and operating efficiencies, a stronger physical presence would dramatically improve its ability to fulfill its mission.
A key component for the success of any organization is a sound fiscal base from which to meet its goals and objectives. In recent years, The Blues Foundation has built such a base while continuing to fulfill its mission in each of its programs and activities.
In 2006, the Foundation adopted a strategic plan that embraced a permanent home. The following year, with a grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis, the Foundation began work with Design 500 to discern requirements for and shape of the new home—its location, size, space allocations, and programming priorities.
A suitable location was identified in December 2010—a condominium located at 421 South Main with approximately 3,800 square feet at street level and 7,700 square feet on the lower level. By this time, The Blues Foundation had quietly and steadily eliminated all debt and built reserves of more than $400,000. This financial strength enabled the Foundation to secure a short-term loan to help pay for the purchase of its new building and some basic renovations when this opportunity arose.
Foundation operations began there on July 5, 2011. With the first phase completed, The Blues Foundation continues to pursue its goal: a home that enhances the ability to carry out its mission.
If not us, who? If not now, when? Look at the demographics and the resources; today’s blues fans are in a position to build the Blues Hall of Fame.It is our responsibility to take on the challenge.
Plans that Focus on Mission
Foundation leaders, with Design 500 and the architectural firm archimania, have determined that the best way to enhance the Foundation’s mission is to expand one of its existing programs— the Blues Hall of Fame. Both programmatic and pragmatic reasons support this focus.
The Blues Foundation is the international home of blues music, and it is based in Memphis. The two most important events in blues music are staged in Memphis each year—the International Blues Challenge and the Blues Music Awards. Since 1980, The Blues Foundation has inducted individuals, recordings, and literature into the Blues Hall of Fame. Each induction included a public announcement, a presentation event, and a printed program; more recently, it also included postings to The Blues Foundation’s website. A new Blues Hall of Fame at 421 South Main enhances one of the founding programs of The Blues Foundation. Now, with the final development of 421 South Main and the Blues Hall of Fame at its heart, The Blues Foundation is poised to create a facility for the world to visit every day of the year. And it will expand the audience and customer base for blues music, a signature business in Memphis. The new Hall of Fame will be the place to:
- honor inductees year-round;
- listen to and learn about the music; and
- enjoy historic mementos of this all-American art form
The new Blues Hall of Fame will be a place for serious blues fans, casual visitors, and wide-eyed students. It will facilitate audience development and Blues Foundation membership growth. It will expose, enlighten, educate, and entertain. The new facility will serve all four components of the Foundation’s mission: preserving history, celebrating excellence, supporting education, and ensuring the future of the music.
The new Blues Hall of Fame will be the centerpiece at 421 South Main. The plan includes an attractive, inviting, and functional façade with a public art component (a bronze statue of Little Milton on a bench as depicted on the cover of his last album “Think of Me”). It provides approximately 5,000 square feet of space for programming and 1,500 for administration, with the remaining 5,000 reserved for circulation and hosting events, for housing normal building mechanicals, and for storage and expansion.
Our goal is to create a memorable experience for the visitor that presents the rich history of blues music through recognition and respect for the men and women who created this music, while also spotlighting The Blues Foundation programs that ensure the future of one of the great cultural contributions to the world: blues music.
An Investment with Long-Term Benefits
New facilities at 421 South Main have the potential for a longterm return on investment for The Blues Foundation.
Memphis is known as the “home of the blues.” “Music is an integral part of the social and economic fabric of the city,” according to an economic impact study conducted by the University of Memphis in 2004. “Many of the city’s highest-priority economic development plans are built upon initiatives to attract young, dynamic, high-income professionals to the area,” the study observed, and it recognized that the diversity and creativity of blues music are a unique advantage for Memphis.
The bronze statue on the right is entitled “Think of Me” and is a recreation of the cover of the last album by Blues Hall of Famer and Memphian Little Milton.
Each year, tens of thousands of tourists travel to Memphis on musical journeys to see Graceland, Sun, Stax, the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum, Beale Street. The National Civil Rights Museum, across the street, currently attracts 200,000 visitors annually to the South Main Street neighborhood and is investing in renovation and expansion there. This location is particularly synergistic since the Blues Hall of Fame, with 95 percent African-American artist inductees, will by definition be a tribute to African-American culture. And The Blues Foundation is already responsible for bringing thousands of dedicated blues fans to Memphis twice a year, for the Blues Music Awards and the International Blues Challenge.
The new Blues Hall of Fame, based on attendance at other Memphis musical destinations, is expected to attract 20,000-30,000 visitors in just the first year. Some visitors will purchase items in the gift shop; some will become dues-paying members of the Foundation; some will make a donation. These additional revenues can be directed to support all the Foundation’s program initiatives—the HART Fund (which pays medical expenses), Generation Blues (youth music scholarships), and the Blues Music Awards. And the on-site expenditures have the potential to grow as the Hall of Fame operations mature.
The National Civil Rights Museum on one side of the street and the Blues Hall of Fame on the other. Both will be there forever. The perfect location.~ Blues Hall of Famer Bobby Rush
The Campaign for the Blues Hall of Fame
To see the plans realized, the Foundation board approved a campaign to raise up to $3.5 million, including the repayment of its loan, to be allocated as follows.
Building Acquisition & Occupancy $432,800
Renovations & Exhibits $2,372,800
Project Costs $694,400
Total Goal $3,500,000
For blues fans around the globe—who visit Memphis in a virtual sense hundreds of times every day for a wide variety of services through The Blues Foundation’s website— the campaign offers a unique opportunity to ensure expanded access to the blues. Information, musicians, and performances archived in the Blues Hall of Fame, together with its exhibits, will be rich new resources available to all worldwide.
Therefore, we invite the entire blues community to invest in the Blues Hall of Fame, a facility that preserves and celebrates the blues, honors our legendary inductees, and creates a home overflowing with history and permanent recognition for the musicians and the music. For local fans, the new facility offers an opportunity to invest in the community and the music that has put Memphis on the map. And it is time to make the blues’ home a reality that will celebrate the music long into the future.
ALL who support this campaign ultimately have the opportunity to enhance The Blues Foundation’s programming, such as the HART Fund and Generation Blues. A campaign investment will see the realization of the new Blues Hall of Fame, and it will nurture growth and long-term viability for the entire organization.
Progress Report June 2012
Since October, we have raised over $900,00 in cash and pledges. Donations may take the form of a pledge over a period of up to five years. A bank will issue a construction loan on the basis of signed pledges.
Fundraising is serial in nature. We started with the Board of Directors, then reached out to others close to home, in an ever-expanding circle. All potential donors want to know that the Board of Directors is invested, that it has “skin in the game.” The Blues Foundation Board of Directors committed $350,000, in amounts ranging from $1,000 to $100,000, to get the campaign on solid footing.
We have raised another $550,000 since then. To date, most has come from individuals—which is not surprising since it is blues fans (in the broadest sense of the word) who provide about 85 percent of the support for this organization. The Blues Foundation is very much a “user fee” organization in the sense that those who think blues music is important are the financial supporters. Among the gifts to date are two Leadership (six-figure) gifts, one from a Board member who pledged $100,000 in honor of Smokey Wilson and Willie “Big Eyes” Smith and one from ArtsMemphis, our local organization dedicated to funding the arts. We are proud to announce that George Thorogood and the Destroyers recently became the first of our Blues Ambassadors to make a Major (fivefigure) gift. We have fifteen other Major gifts at this time.
Securing significant support from the current Board was the first step. We now have six other efforts under way:
- Current Board members are in the process of reaching out to folks they believe may be interested and able to contribute.
- Past Board members—including many who voted for early phases of this project—are being solicited by Board President Bill Wax and former presidents Pat Morgan and Paul Benjamin.
- Charter members have been asked to match the Board’s 100 percent participation.
- The Memphis Blues Society has set a goal of raising $10,000 before the 2013 IBC and has challenged other societies to set their own goals, and we know other societies are beginning to plan similar efforts.
- Festivals around the country, including Tampa Bay, Doheny, Simi Valley Cajun and Blues and North Atlantic are committed to help get the word out and raise funds.
- We now have a Donate “button” on our website.
- We now have set up a text-to-donate feature. Text –blues-to 80077 to donate $10 to the Blues Hall of Fame.
No one knows what you can contribute financially. Only you do. But what I do know is that it is up to us to lead the way. There may be foundations and companies and rock stars that join us in this endeavor, but before that happens we have to be able to get before them with our story.
- Make your own pledge.
- Make the Blues Hall of Fame your own cause.
- Open doors for us.
If not us, who? If not now, when? Just think, YOU can make the Blues Hall of Fame a reality. Your support matters.
The Blues Hall of Fame will not be built with just cover charges and tip jars. This is an “all-hands-on-deck” effort with every blues fan having the chance to contribute whatever amount they can. But this is old-fashioned philanthropy that requires raising money in chunks one-on-one from those who are willing to write a check and make a significant pledge. This is not a question of how, but who? I doubt whether there was a time in the past or there will be a time in the future when there are so many people with means who have such a deep appreciation for blues music. The demographics are with us. This is a project for baby boomers who came of age with Mick and Keith and both Erics and with Muddy, Howlin’ and John Lee.