Roots of Music Cultural Sculpture Garden:
The Roots of Music Cultural Sculpture Garden in Armstrong Park, first dedicated in April of 2010 under the administration of Mayor C. Ray Nagin, celebrates the indigenous musical culture of New Orleans.
This 7” X 11” cast bronze sculpture, depicts musical instruments and physical features of the people who gathered in Congo Square on Sunday afternoons during the 18th and 19th centuries. The artist, Adewálé Adénlé, is a native of Nigeria, who now lives and teaches in the US.
The first documented performance of opera in the U.S. took place in New Orleans. This sculpture pays tribute to that beginning and to the contribution that opera has made to the musical culture of the city. New Orleans has hosted performances since the 1790s with many accounts of enslaved Africans in attendance.
More than one thousand donations from 26 countries around the world funded the creation of this sculpture. Armstrong’s widow, Mrs. Lucille Armstrong, unveiled this 12ft sculpture during the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in April 1980. Renowned artist Elizabeth Catlett also created the Mahalia Jackson sculpture.
Big Chief Allison “Tootie” Montana (1922 – 2005) was a New Orleans cultural icon who was heralded as the Mardi Gras Indian “chief of chiefs.” He is revered as the chief responsible for changing the violent way of the Mardi Gras Indian culture to one of pageantry. Big Chief Montana, of the Yellow Pocahontas Tribe, made suits until he was 82 years old, totaling 52 years of masking.
Native New Orleanian Buddy Bolden (1877 – 1931) played the cornet like no one before him. His band was considered the first group to play what would later be called jazz music. He also played the blues. Artist Kimberly Dummons, is a native of Baton Rouge and graduate of Xavier University.
This sculpture depicts six members of a traditional New Orleans brass band. Other public sculptures in the city by the native artist, Sheleen Jones, include Big Chief Allison “Tootie” Montana, “Opening the Gates: A Memorial to A. P. Tureaud” and “Forever a Crusader of Civil Rights: The Rev. Avery C. Alexander Memorial Plaza.”
This 12-ft sculpture was dedicated on April, 28, 2010 during the opening of the Roots of Music Cultural Sculpture Garden. Native New Orleanian Mahalia Jackson (1911-1972) was a legendary gospel singer, television personality, and civil rights activist. She sang at the 1963 March on Washington at the request of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
New Orleans native Sidney Bechet (1897-1959) came from a family of musicians including his grandfather, who played the flute. Bechet left New Orleans at the age of 19 bound for Chicago. After his initial invitation to perform in London, he spent much of his career abroad. Bechet died in Paris.