Blues Foundation Moves to Dream Location on South Main


New home of The Blues FoundationThe Blues Foundation is moving to South Main next year, fulfilling a 30-year-old dream for a permanent home to showcase the music and the artists who make it.

The Memphis-based international nonprofit organization’s board voted Saturday to buy ground-floor commercial space at 421 S. Main, the Hotline Lofts building.

Jay Sieleman 

Jay Sieleman

By March, the foundation expects to relocate offices from 49 Union on Cotton Row into a 4,000-square-foot storefront that eventually will house exhibits, educational programs and special events.

“In the printed program of the third annual Blues Music Awards in 1982, there are drawings of a proposed Blues Hall, so this indeed has been a dream of the Blues Foundation and a goal of the Blues Foundation since its earliest days,” said executive director Jay Sieleman.

The building, which has residential condominiums upstairs, is on the Main Street Trolley line and in a neighborhood steeped in history and the arts. It’s near the National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis College of Art graduate school, Memphis Music Foundation, the Folk Alliance International and Memphis chapter of the National Academy of the Recording Arts & Sciences.

“It’s all there in about a block and a half. It’s really walking and trolley distance for the music fans, the blues fans, who come from all over the world, particularly for our events, the International Blues Challenge and the Blues Music Awards,” Sieleman said. “We cater to everyone, but particularly the blues music tourist.”

The foundation’s 25-member board met by teleconference to consider the purchase. Officials had previously negotiated a price with building co-owner Gary Garland and executed a purchase contract.

“People of all ages, races, cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds travel to Memphis from around the world for one primary purpose: Blues music. We’re so excited that now there will be a visible center for them to visit while they’re here,” said board member Kevin Kane, Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau president and the foundation’s current landlord.

Plans call for staff offices; exhibits showcasing Hall of Fame inductees through memorabilia, artwork and audiovisual presentations; and a retail store focusing on Hall of Fame recordings and literature and Blues Foundation-branded merchandise.

The foundation is dedicated to preserving the art form and its heritage, education and celebrating recording and performance excellence. It has 3,700 individual members and 190 affiliated local blues societies representing about 50,000 people around the world.

— Wayne Risher: 529-2874

Blues Foundation

Founded in 1980, The Blues Foundation is dedicated to preserving blues music history, celebrating recording and performance excellence, supporting blues education and ensuring the future of this uniquely American art form.

Key events in 2011 are:

International Blues Challenge: Feb. 1-5

Keeping the Blues Alive Awards: Feb. 5

Blues Hall of Fame induction ceremony: May 4

Blues Music Awards: May 5

For more information, and to sign up as a member of The Blues Foundation, check out!