Friday big day here for arts, entertainment|[03/25/08]

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A trio of arts and entertainment events are occurring downtown Friday — the unveiling of a historic marker honoring one of Vicksburg most famous bands, the unveiling of the 24th floodwall mural and an art exhibition reception.

The first event of the day begins at 10 a.m. in front of The BB Club in downtown Vicksburg, where the Red Tops frequently played during the band’s heyday in the 1950s. The Mississippi Blues Commission will unveil a Blues Trail marker on Friday honoring the popular all-black group from Vicksburg who played for black and white audiences in the years of Jim Crow laws and strict segregation.

“In the time when music was probably doing more for integration than any other aspect of our cultures, the Red Tops were playing music that really appealed to both blacks and whites equally,” said Bill Seratt, Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau director and a commissioner for the State Blues Commission.

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A short reception will follow the unveiling of the historic marker, to be attended by members of the Red Tops.

“We’ve been trying to track down as many members as we can, and invite them out to be honored,” said Seratt. “You never know who’s going to come to a Blues Trail unveiling. There’s a number of blues enthusiasts and artists throughout the state who try to attend them all.”

The Red Tops marker is the 33rd to be installed as part of the trail, a series of markers throughout the state that celebrates Mississippi as the home of the blues.

In total, the Mississippi Blues Commission aims to install 120 markers in the state. The first such marker to be unveiled in Vicksburg honored native bluesman Willie Dixon, and was installed last year on Willie Dixon Way.

Funding for the Blues Trail marker comes from the Mississippi Development Authority Tourism Heritage Trails Program, the Mississippi Blues Commission, and the VCVB in partnership with Fordice Construction Company of Vicksburg.

The city’s 24th mural on the floodwall on Levee Street will be unveiled Friday at 3 p.m. Titled “Gold in the Hills,” the mural celebrates the Guinness Book of World Records holder for the longest-running melodrama, annually produced since 1936 in Vicksburg. The unveiling coincides with opening night of the show’s 73rd season, which begins at 7:30 at the Parkside Playhouse on North Frontage Road.

“This should be a real fun one,” said Nellie Caldwell, chairman of the Riverfront Mural Committee. “We hope to have all of the characters in costume there, and some will sing their songs from the show. We’re also hoping to have some of the older players in attendance.”

The scene from the play depicted on the mural features every character or the 1890s melodrama written by J. Frank Davis in 1930. Robert Dafford, renowned muralist from Lafayette, La., created the mural, along with the 23 other completed murals on the floodwall. He will next begin work on a mural celebrating the Miss Mississippi Pageant, said Caldwell. In total, 32 murals are planned for the floodwall.

“I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished thus far, and the work we’re continuing to do,” Caldwell said. “These murals will be around for Vicksburg residents and visitors to enjoy forever.”

“Gold in the Hills” will also be performed by the Vicksburg Theatre Guild at the Parkside Playhouse Friday and Saturday, as well as on April 4, 5, 11 and 12.

Rounding out Friday’s events is an evening reception at the Attic Gallery for two Mississippi native artists who hold an exhibit in Vicksburg about once every decade. Dale Rayburn and Mamie Joe are married, and now reside in Roswell, Ga., but Rayburn is originally from Carriere and Joe was born in Cleveland. The two have been holding Mississippi exhibits exclusively in Vicksburg since the 1970s, after Attic Gallery owner Lesley Silver saw their work in Atlanta and persuaded them to do a show in the city. They have returned to Vicksburg about once every 10 years, said Silver, bypassing the opportunity to hold exhibits in Jackson and other Mississippi locations.

Their latest exhibit, titled Coming Home, will showcase the pair’s signature work of etchings, paintings and monotypes, but will also feature a new project the couple has yet to publicly put on display

“It’s something fun we have been working on,” said Rayburn, “and the Attic seemed like a good place to share it.”

The artists are calling their latest exhibit Coming Home because they have recently built a new studio at the former Rayburn family home in Carriere.

“After Katrina we had to come tend to the old farm, and somehow we have reconnected, and wanted to be able to spend time here and work here,” Rayburn said.

Rayburn and Joe will be at the opening reception to meet those on hand. The reception is from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Attic Gallery at 1101 Washington St. Their work will be on display there until April 21.

If you goThe unveiling of a Mississippi Blues Trail Marker honoring Vicksburg band the Red Tops will take place Friday at 10 a.m. in front of The BB Club at 721 Clay.The “Gold in the Hills” mural will be unveiled Friday at 3 p.m. at the Vicksburg floodwall, at City Front on Levee Street.An opening reception for an exhibition featuring Mississippi native artists Dale Rayburn and Mamie Joe will be Friday from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Attic Gallery, located at 1101 Washington Street.