FEB 24 | The Sepia Club Revival Event Mainframe Studios | 01/31/2023
Welcome to The Sepia Club Revival!
Mainframe Studios is pleased to present a very special night that pays homage to its neighborhood history when it was once a lively hub of Black commerce and culture. The Sepia Club was one of Center Street's notably social and jazz clubs, which brought famous musicians from across the country to Des Moines.
5:00 PM | The night starts with art - join in.
Mainframe is where art and community collide. It invites you to see, participate and interact with visual arts before the performances begin. This portion of the evening is free and open to the public.
- 4th Floor | The evening begins with an artist talk by Cameron Gray. Join the discussion of Grays new video projection installation in the 4th Floor Gallery of Mainframe on view for the month of February. Gray founded The Buxton Initiative in 2020, which is an organization that centers Blackness in the realm of art, music, literature, and film.
- 1st Floor | Explore the work of Akwi Nji and her community art installation consider the meaningful that invites community members to reflect upon what is truly meaningful, highlighting how acts of caring help us to make meaning in the world. This work is done in partnership with Ballet Des Moines.
6:00 PM | The Sepia Club Revival
The Big Room event space transforms and draws from the history of place - The Sepia Club takes root for the evening. Guests will enjoy food, drink, laughs, words and music that comfort and inspire. We are excited about this line up!
- Emcee | Comedian Bernard Bell
- Opening Act |Soul-jazz organ trio MFKS
- Headliner |Bill Weathers
Pop-up Vendors |Food :Ruby B's Kitchen | Sweets: LeeTy Delights | Refreshements:Tangerine Food Co
- $20 | Open seating tickets
- $35 | Open seating ticket, plus one drink ticket and goody bag by Chellies Sugar Shack.
CENTER STREET HISTORY
The first training corps for Black officers in the United States was at Fort Des Moines, which significantly increased migration to Iowa. And, because of the war, greatly impacted the number of jobs available for African Americans. Between 1910-1920, the state's Black population saw a 29% increase. After the war many officers and their families stayed in Des Moines and settled near Center Street. During this time the coal mines in the southern Iowa town of Buxton closed and much of that community’s Black population also settled in the neighborhood.
Starting in the late 1920s Center Street was one of the few areas where blacks could live and work peacefully. The area’s business district boasted barber shops, restaurants, grocery stores, pharmacies, lawyer’s offices, funeral homes, pool halls, hotels, laundries, service stations, a movie theatre, photography studio and print shop.
Center Street's Black economic, social, and cultural life was lost in the name of Urban Renewal and I-235 in the 1960s and 1970s. As a result, an area that had once served and supported the Black community was bulldozed.
There are a variety of resources on The Great Migration, Urban Renewal, Redlining and Center Street. Here are a few:
- Art and the Great Migration: Latest Dubuque Museum of Art exhibition shares Iowa's story in Black history | The work of researcher Riki King and artist Jill Wells | The Telegraph Herald | Jan. 13, 2023
- Before I-235, Des Moines’ Center Street district was a bastion of Black commerce and culture | Little Village by Paul Brennan and Courtney Guein | April 8, 2022
- The rise and fall of Center Street, 1945-1972 | ISU thesis essay by Gary Thomas | Jan. 1, 2003
- A Neighborhood at Work | Iowa PBS
A special thank you to John Martin, Party On Des Moines, Des Moines Music Coalition, State Historical Society of Iowa, Little Village, Abena Imhotep, Madison DeShay, Artists of Mainframe, and the many others who have helped make this evening an event to remember.