Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame planning gets underway

by Associated Press
Published: March 25,2015

bluesCLARKSDALE — Los Angeles-based architect, Kulapat Yantrasast of wHY Architecture Inc., is teaming up with organizers of the Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame to get the Clarksdale, Mississippi, project moving.

Yantrasast and his team met with Hall of Fame founders LaMont Robinson and Cheryl Ruffin in Clarksdale this past week.

“What we believe as architects,” said Yantrasast, “is that you build a museum, and the museum in turn really revives the region. There will be international recognition. We are going to do something really world class.”

Yantrasast’s team has been responsible for the construction of the Louisville Speed Art Museum, the Bibliotheca Alexandria Center in Cairo, the Grand Rapids Art Museum, and has constructed galleries and exhibits for the Chicago Museum of Art and the Harvard Art Museums, among others.

Yantrasast and his company became involved in the project due to a hometown connection. Quinlin Messenger, son of Roy Messenger, works in wHY’s Los Angeles office.

“When I learned of this project, I became excited about the prospect of doing something great for my father’s home town,” said Messenger.

He contacted the organizing committee for the Hall of Fame in Clarksdale, and arraigned an initial meeting with Yantrasast and the committee in January. Yantrasast, Messenger and Mark Thomann from their New York office returned to town this past weekend to meet with Robinson,
Ruffin and local members of the organizing committee as well as representatives from both the city and county governments.

The group discussed the vision for the project, as well as the various needs and possible locations.
“We don’t want to duplicate anything that’s been done anywhere else,” said Robinson. “We have to incorporate a 21st century feel with the technology, but still retain a sense of nostalgia. It has to be highly interactive. I think we can be creative without going over budget.”

The museum will tell the story of the evolution of American popular music through technology, memorabilia and murals. The facility will include a 300 seat theater, a restaurant and a juke joint in addition to the museum, which will house the R&B Hall of Fame, the National Gospel Hall of Fame, and other exhibits.

“It has to be immersive,” said Yantrasast. “And it has to have room to grow.”

Mac Crank, city economic development coordinator and organizing committee member said, “We have redirected our economic engine toward cultural tourism.”

He spoke to the group about how the R&B Hall of Fame would fit in with the other museums in town and with the city’s plans for the future.

Crank said, “What you have with the three museums in this market is a cluster of museums that exhibit the entire history of American popular music and how it evolved from music born right here.”

— The Clarksdale Press Register

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