The Cotton Club museum and cultural center reopens its doors

The Cotton Club Museum and Cultural Center reopened with a festive reception on Sunday after being closed for more than a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 100 people attended the event, which lasted from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. State Senator Keith Perry made a brief appearance and Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe gave a brief two-minute speech.

“Sounds fair, doesn’t it?” Poe said. “Because we have all come back together and share the fraternity… From the beginning, this center was not only about the past. You certainly want to preserve the past and put a flag in the ground for all the history that has passed through this place and also the community around it, but it was always about building that bridge to the future.

Music, refreshments, raffle prizes and a video presentation were presented at the in-person event. While the CCMCC hosted several virtual events during the COVID-19 pandemic, Evelyn Foxx was ready to resume normal museum operations. Foxx, NAACP local president and CCMCC board member, said the board did not want the museum closed but needed to keep the community safe.

” That’s wonderful. Isn’t it a beautiful place? Foxx said. “We’re ready for people to come and enjoy it like they did before COVID. ”

The event also featured artwork by UF psychologist Anthony Greene and prominent CCMCC member Patricia Hilliard-Nunn who passed away in 2020. The event was almost as much a celebration of her life as it was the reopening of the event. Museum.

As a UF professor, artist, dancer and outspoken activist, Hilliard-Nunn has helped CCMCC from the start with fundraising, writing grant applications and organizing events, her husband said. Kenneth Nunn. He attended the event and donated his art for it, knowing how committed she was to the museum’s mission.

“Tricia came in with both feet and was really excited about it, and I was skeptical,” he said. “I was like, ‘You’re wasting your time collecting this money and doing all this work. I’m really happy to see it, but I just don’t think this building is going to come together.

In the mid-1990s, the museum was not a museum. The building was dilapidated and in desperate need of repair, according to a presentation at the event. Vivian Filer, founder and president of CCMCC, said it was previously part of a military base during WWII before being a movie theater. Then it morphed into a Big Band club, with performers like James Brown, BB King, and Bo Diddley, before becoming a warehouse.

It was then that Filer and his church bought the building and started turning it into the Cotton Club museum.

Filer strongly believes in the influence of the museum and she encouraged Hilliard-Nunn to get involved, Kenneth said.

Participants like Nathaniel Courtney, 39, particularly appreciated the work ethic and drive of Filer and Hilliard-Nunn.

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“I remember being a kid… and she used to come and read stories at different schools here,” Courtney said. “Such a beautiful spirit. Just a testament to what we can do as a community, especially when we have influential leaders like Ms. Filer and like Dr. Hilliard-Nunn.

He said he appreciated Hilliard-Nunn’s legacy.

“Her spirit is alive and well today,” Courtney said. “It just talks about the tight-knit community that is Gainesville, and then the impact it has had on that community, especially its ability to help bring this museum back to life.”

Zachary Carnell is a contributing writer for The Alligator.

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