EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (KMOX) – A nearly decade-long effort to restore the boyhood home of jazz great Miles Davis and open it as a museum is nearing its culmination.
“We’re looking at completion by late fall,” according to Lauren Parks, President of House of Miles ESL – the group behind the campaign. “We’ve raised approximately $50,000. We need another $50,000 to complete Phase One, which is completion of the structure itself.”
Phase Two – described as a brick fundraiser for a courtyard, will be kicking off “very soon,” according to Parks.
The money is being raised in part through a GoFundMe account.
Coupling those donations with available grant money has allowed workers to restore the home at 1701 Kansas Avenue in East St. Louis.
Jas Gary Pearson, Director of Programming for House of Miles, says the renovation project is a great way for the jazz great’s legacy to live on.
“What we’re looking to do with this project is we’re hoping to inspire young kids between the ages of six to twelve to attend our music academy,” he explained. “We want to get them when they’re very, very impressionable. When you get kids to buy into a community you’re doing all the things you need to do.”
Davis passed away at the age of 65 in 1991.
Though more than a decade younger than the famous musician, Eugene B. Redmond — now the poet laureate for East St. Louis — knew Davis and says he and his friends ran to greet him whenever he returned from New York City.
“We could keep up with the New York styles by watching Miles when he came home,” Redmond recalled. “There was a continental suit, a double-breasted suit, a sharp coat and trousers. Whatever was the style in hats, jackets, pants, trousers, and shoes — Miles would be on the cutting edge of that.”
He also noticed that Davis had an “edge” to his personality that Redmond figures was related to his musical genius.
“I think the uniqueness of both his music and his personality,” Redmond said. “His music has been defined as the work of a genius but also — strange. He actually altered the direction and shifted the thrust of jazz music.”
Lauren Parks is looking for the renovated home/museum to become a major tourist attraction for East St. Louis.
“We are true believers in shedding positive light on our city,” she pointed out. “Not only our city — this will benefit the county, the region, and the world. That’s how we see it.”
An exact opening date for the renovated childhood home of Miles Davis in East St. Louis has yet to be announced.
You can learn more about the project at http://www.houseofmilesestl.org.
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