The Alabama Blues Project isn't singing those need-a-home blues anymore.
The Tuscaloosa-based nonprofit organization has been offered office space in the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center, which is also home to the Tuscaloosa Symphony Orchestra and Tuscaloosa Arts Council, on Greensboro Avenue.
For the past 20 years, the Alabama Blues Project has been migrating from one available space to another, lacking a visible and easily accessible place in the community to call its own. Organizers say that being housed at the arts center will allow the Alabama Blues Project, which provides blues music programs for children and adults, to collaborate with other arts organizations and reach more people across the state.
“We’ve been working really hard for 20 years, and during those 20 years, we’ve never really had a home," said Shannon McCue, executive director of Alabama Blues Project. “I think that this is going to help us really take off.”
The plan is to move into the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center, which is named for the Tuscaloosa-born "Queen of the Blues," in August. To pay for moving expenses and one year of rent, organizers have set up a site for donations at www.gofundme.com/alabama-blues-project039s-new-home.
Kiera Gillock, development coordinator for Alabama Blues Project, said having an office space will help Alabama Blues Project expand its work across the state in the future, giving them a more stable foundation on which to grow.
“As we look to the future of the organization, we are aiming to be able to work a little farther across the state,” Gillock said. “We are very excited for this opportunity and to take the next step in the project's life.”
The Alabama Blues Project's mission is to promote and preserve the blues as a traditional and contemporary art form, with particular focus on the contributions from Alabama’s best blues musicians.
The project reaches students ages 6 through 18 annually through its after-school camps, clubs and advanced ensembles, all of which are led by professional blues musicians. Many of the students are from underserved communities that often lack programs focused on arts education.
McCue said that educating students in arts history is important to Alabama history as well.
“The Alabama Blues Project is really unique because we are one of the only programs in the state that is using music that specifically came from Alabama to teach students about Alabama,” McCue said. “So it’s giving students pride in their home state and getting them to realize that this is the root of much of the modern music that we hear today.”
July is one of the busiest months of the year for the Alabama Blues Project:
• Alabama Blues Week, a week of multiple live performances at area venues, will be hosted by the Alabama Blues Project, beginning Monday and continuing through July 15. The Alabama Blues Project will be collaborating with the University of Alabama’s School of Music faculty and College of Continuing Studies in hosting the week of events, most of which take place at the Paul W. Bryant Conference Center. The Alabama Blues Project band will perform at 6 p.m. July 13 during the free downtown concert series Live at the Plaza, followed by a performance by Earl "Guitar" Williams. A full schedule of events can be found on the Blues Week tab at www.alabamablues.org.
• The Alabama Blues Project will host a summer camp for students in first through eighth grades from July 16-20. The camp, held at Central Elementary School, 1510 Dinah Washington Ave., will last from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. each day. Students will learn about the blues, art, dance, creative writing and musical instruments. Registration costs $150, but no student will be turned away because of inability to pay. Registration forms are available to download at www.alabamablues.org/2018-summer-camp. Forms with payment can be mailed to the Alabama Blues Project, PO Box 2351, Tuscaloosa, AL 35403 or by email at email@example.com.