The House of Blues Foundation

Article excerpt

Committed not only to profit, but also to the spirit and traditions of the Mississippi Delta and--through its foundation arm--to promoting racial harmony and educating public school students about blues culture, House of Blues Entertainment Inc. sometimes seems a 20th-century counterpart to Robert Owen's New Lanark experiment, which sought to unite capitalist enterprise with social reform. Backed by investment from a rock group (Aerosmith), singers (John Fogerty, Isaac Hayes, Carly Simon, Joe Walsh), actors (Dan Ackroyd, James Belushi, Dennis Hopper, George Wendt), the Harvard University Endowment Fund and the Walt Disney Corporation, the enterprise has grown from a club into a conglomerate--with a retail company, a music company, a hospitality arm (soon to open its first hotel, in Chicago) and a media company, all built upon the foundation (some critics have said on the back) of the blues and the Southern black experience.

The International House of Blues Foundation runs a host of programs that foster an appreciation of the music, art and history of the blues and of the culture that spawned this authentic American art form. From Blues Schoolhouse (three days a week, House of Blues clubs are open as multimedia classrooms and folk art museums for students in grades 5 through 12) through Blues Ambassador Scholarships (which annually sponsor four college-bound students) to Summer Blues (which introduces 8- to 18-year-olds to folk art via participation in hands-on projects led by guest artists), the foundation has jumped in to counteract the radical diminution of arts education in public schools. Other House of Blues initiatives designed for the same purpose include the Artists in Residence program (which sends musicians, visual artists and writers to local high schools to interact with students) and Arts in the House (which provides Chicago-area students with hands-on art instruction from resident artists).

For more than a year now, the International House of Blues Foundation has been run by Carol Adams, a former academician and activist who has a proselytizer's passion about the value of arts to community and individual development. …