Magazine article American Libraries

Duke Ellington Packs 'Em In

Magazine article American Libraries

Duke Ellington Packs 'Em In

Article excerpt


One of the most successful traveling exhibitions ever developed by ALA, "Beyond Category: The Musical Genius of Duke Ellington" recently ended its two-year tour to 30 libraries across the United States with glowing comments from librarians and heartfelt thank-yous from many library patrons. Funded by a $210,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, "Beyond Category" brought unprecedented numbers of people to these 30 libraries to view the exhibit and attend related programs.

Libraries on the tour presented concerts, panel discussions and lectures, reading and discussion programs, master classes with jazz musicians, jazz and poetry coffeehouses, film series, big band dances, fashion shows, displays of jazz memorabilia, and other events. Equally important, the exhibition helped libraries form partnerships with community groups to plan publicity and programs, and generated cash and in-kind contributions from state humanities councils, local businesses, media, foundations, and individual volunteers.

Inspired by the themes of jazz, art deco, the art of the Harlem Renaissance, and Ellington's piano virtuosity, many library publicity campaigns for the Ellington exhibition were inventive and visually striking. Whether professionally designed or "home-grown," they featured dramatic graphics in both vivid color and stark black and white.

To help create a local project identity, a number of libraries made effective use of a single exhibition logo and color theme created especially for the exhibition on invitations, press releases, posters, postcards, booklists, and other materials.

Drop me off at the library

An outstanding publicity effort by the San Antonio (Tex.) Public Library was recognized by a 1997 John Cotton Dana Library Public Relations Award from the Library Administration and Management Association's Public Relations Section. The library's sophisticated marketing campaign for "Beyond Category" was a library/community effort that involved few direct costs and many donations of talent and time. Public information officer Celine Thomasson coordinated the publicity project in collaboration with local exhibit coordinator Mary A. Wright and her staff.

"We realized early in the project that we needed community input to reach the audiences we wanted to reach," Thomasson said. Recruitment of volunteers for a "Beyond Category" community planning committee with connections to other institutions in San Antonio brought into the project university faculty, performance artists, members of the media, and public relations and marketing professionals, in addition to library staff.

San Antonio's first female African-American city councilor was asked to chair the committee and act as the spokesperson for the library events surrounding the exhibition. Another key member of the committee was the programming director of the Carver Cultural Center, an organization active in arts programming and education with strong ties to San Antonio's African-American community.

The committee identified publicity strategies and goals and planned Ellington- and jazz-related programming for all ages. Graphic artist Glynis Evans was asked to create a poster, postcards, bookmarks, and other materials. The whole committee approved the final designs. "They were a very talented group. . . . Everyone did a little bit of everything. It was really satisfying to work with creative people who had so many ideas," Thomasson said. …

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