Louis Armstrong House Museum Hires a New Director to Guide Expansion Project | Modern Society of USA

Louis Armstrong House Museum Hires a New Director to Guide Expansion Project

Louis Armstrong House Museum Hires a New Director to Guide Expansion Project

Big changes are coming to the quiet block in Corona, Queens, where Louis Armstrong spent his last three decades. And a new artist and curator has arrived to help guide those changes.

Kenyon Victor Adams will take over as director of the Louis Armstrong House Museum, effective immediately, the museum announced on Tuesday.

Mr. Adams, 40, steps in as the museum works to finish construction on a 14,000-square-foot education and performance center in a lot across the street from the home, where Armstrong lived until his death in 1971. The museum also received a $1.9 million grant from New York City last year to renovate the house next door, known as Selma’s House, which will provide office and storage space for the organization.

And the museum recently completed a monumental, nearly $3 million digitization process of its entire archive, making thousands of items available for listening and viewing online. That collection has long been housed at nearby Queens College, but it will move to the museum’s expanded campus in Corona when construction is completed.

“The Armstrong legacy has the opportunity at this moment, with the new center, to be brought into the 21st century,” Mr. Adams said. “And I don’t think anyone is aware of just how grand and rigorous and expansive the legacy will show itself to be.”

Mr. Adams comes to the museum from Grace Farms, an arts and cultural center in Connecticut, where he led its Arts Initiative. He previously studied religion and literature at Yale Divinity School, and theology of contemporary performance at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music. His artistic work includes “Prayers of the People,” an interdisciplinary work based on the writings of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and directed by Bill T. Jones.

At the Armstrong house, Mr. Adams fills a role that has been vacant since the museum’s founding director, Michael Cogswell, retired last year. Mr. Adams’s goal will be to bring the house and its rich collection — which offers a deep look into Armstrong’s life through letters, reel-to-reel tapes, visual art and much more — into conversation with the neighborhood around it, as well as with a broader community of archival institutions devoted to black history.

“We are in the midst of a sort of renaissance of African-American arts and letters, and diasporic arts and culture,” Mr. Adams said. “Jazz history is black history, so this is a fantastic time to take up again and repurpose — from a 21st-century perspective — this particular legacy of artistry and innovation.”

Mr. Adams added: “We will now be able to pick up on the thinking of this great artist and innovator, who’s really contributed so much to American life and American identity — to what Martin Luther King would call the ‘human personality.’”

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