Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Ritz Theatre, LaVilla Museum Focus of Weeklong Celebration

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Ritz Theatre, LaVilla Museum Focus of Weeklong Celebration

Article excerpt

Residents can welcome back the Ritz Theatre and say hello to the LaVilla Museum during an "Old Home Day" celebration today.

During the last week, some residents got to see the results of the $4.2 million project to build a museum and rebuild the Ritz Theatre, saving two walls of the 1929 building at Ashley and State streets.

But the grand opening events at the 32,000-square-foot facility, which includes a 426-seat theater, museum, lobby, gift shop and offices, continue through Oct. 2.

Carol Alexander, executive director of the Ritz Theatre & LaVilla Museum, said she is excited and relieved the opening has arrived.

"I'm excited that the public is finally going to have a wonderful facility to view and to come be entertained and educated under the same roof," she said.

Alexander said there are few cases where museums were built from within the neighborhood.

"The museum is totally built around the history of this community," she said. "The community has brought forth their precious articles and family heirlooms."

Acquiring artifacts was difficult initially because there was no building, said museum administrator Lydia Stewart.

"We had to convince people that this place is real," Stewart said. "We had to convince them that it would be an institution that would be secure; that it would be someplace that was worthy of their family treasure."

The museum exhibit focuses on Jacksonville's black history from the 1800s to 1962, the dawn of the civil rights era, Stewart said.

Exhibits will be divided into sets and backdrops that represent different aspects of the community, such as education, religion, professions, home life and consumer goods, Stewart said.

"It will be like walking down a street," she said.

The museum will host a traveling exhibit from the Smithsonian Institute on Duke Ellington, called Beyond Category, from Oct. …

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