Charles Washington – Shape Community Center
Houston is the historical home of many phenomenal musicians who blazed a trail, throughout the world, for others to follow in the musical genres of blues and jazz. The physical location and hub of excitement during the early days of blues and jazz in Houston was Dowling Street. Moreover, Dowling Street has additional significance as the historic business center of the Third Ward. During the mid twentieth century, Dowling Street was a bustling center for the arts with its numerous clubs and legendary Eldorado Ballroom that were hot spots on what was then known by club goers as the Chitlin Circuit. During that era, the big band sounds from the Eldorado Ballroom permeated the community. The Eldorado featured musicians from far and wide who graced the community with their magical melodies. Along with Houston’s musical greats, Conrad Johnson and Huie Long, Sam John Hopkins, better known as Lightnin’ Hopkins, was an enigma of top notch musicianship and an inspiration to many as he lit up the Third Ward of Houston with his distinctive, brand of American country blues.
In addition to being a cultural Meccah, the Third Ward was also the historic center of civil rights activity for the community. I am an alumnus of Delaware State College and a career artist with a path of studies that has led me to express my feelings about my life and the world around me through my art. Moreover, I am an artist who has taken on the task of acknowledging, documenting and commemorating cultural contributors who have made a significant impact on our community and in the world. In this capacity, I plan to create a metal door to be placed in the Third Ward, on Dowling Street. The location that I have chosen for the door is the present site of a memorial plaque dedicated to Lightnin’ Hopkins, already in place on Dowling Street and Francis Street. The exciting, historical significance of Dowling Street will also be represented with this creative installation.
My proposed door, to be created as part of the Texan French Alliance for the Arts (TFAA), Open the Door project, will be a monument to Lightnin’ Hopkins and the blues and jazz musicians who represent the spirit of greatness and talent that characterizes the Third Ward community. My door design exemplifies the mission statement of the TFAA in that it emphasizes the transcendental quality of music and art to cross the threshold of time and space to inspire generations of multicultural talent. As the restoration of the Third Ward to its original grandeur continues, this monument will serve as a symbol of the extraordinary, homegrown talent that has opened the door to worldwide opportunities and inspiration that continues to positively influence the culture of the Third Ward in Houston.