Where Jazz and Legend Come to Life: The Louis Armstrong Center

5 mins read

The Louis Armstrong Center recently opened in July 2023 and encourages learning and honoring Louis Armstrong across multiple generations. Its warm lighting and dark walls provide an intimate experience of getting to truly know Armstrong. The friendly staff greet the visitors and are ready to answer any questions about Armstrong, the House Tour, and the new exhibit. Jazz pianist and multimedia artist, Jason Moran, created the Here To Stay exhibit, which explores the life and legacy of Armstrong through an interactive visual and auditory tour. Armstrong is known as a master jazz trumpeter and vocalist; he had a huge impact on the jazz world. Although he passed away in 1971, his legacy is still alive, and it’s greatly appreciated by many. At the center of the exhibit is an interactive digital and auditory space where visitors can learn more about Armstrong and the museum — as they can listen with headphones and scroll through several topics. The center also features The Jazz Room, an indoor concert venue that invites musicians to perform all year round as part of the center’s initiative for their artistic excellence program. The center immerses guests in a personal archive of Armstrong while valuing community and the arts.  

Here To Stay divides Armstrong’s life into five major categories, “Armstrong the Artist,” “The Ambassador,” “Tools,” “Film Works,” and “Roots.” Here To Stay presents archives and artifacts accompanied by a presentation, heard through a handheld speaker that aligns with each category. “Armstrong the Artist” features Armstrong’s tape collection with the personalized collage covers he created as a means of expression and storytelling. “The Ambassador” category displays Armstrong’s impact as a cultural ambassador by displaying his unique passports and suitcases he used for traveling all around the world. “Film Works” touches on Armstrong’s roles in film that he played, with his film posters showcased in the back. “Tools” details how Armstrong documented his life as an artist, featuring his beloved monogrammed handkerchief. On the far right of the exhibit, “Roots” tells Armstrong’s origins of his childhood and family in New Orleans, Louisiana.  

The new center promotes history and preserves the memory of Armstrong. His wife, Lucille Wilson, is the person responsible for making this museum accessible to New York citizens and anyone who admires Armstrong’s music. Armstrong and Wilson lived in Corona, Queens where the exhibit is located. After her husband passed away, she wanted to honor his legacy by keeping his archives, making it a museum, and ensuring it became a prominent New York landmark. The establishment of the Louis Armstrong House Museum (LAHM) helped to support jazz education. Following Wilson’s death in 1983, the house was donated as a museum to the city of New York, and in return, the city entrusted the City University of New York, Queens College with managing the museum. 

In 2003, the historic house opened for public tours and the archives, previously accessible in the 90s, were available to the public. Preserving Armstrong’s house and collecting and sharing the archives that document his legacy and life, define the LAHM mission of creating programs that inspire and educate the public. They also engage with contemporary artists, allowing them to create new works and performances.  

The new exhibit is located right across the street from the LAHM, allowing the public to learn about Armstrong’s personal life and legacy as an influential figure. The new center proposes a new vision. According to the Louis Armstrong website, it will continue to develop programs in four areas: preserving the legacy, artistic excellence, education, and community. 

The new Armstrong Center honors the legacy of Armstrong, an icon of jazz. In a press release about his exhibition, Jason Moran said, “It is my belief that the Louis Armstrong House and Archive is one of the most important cultural sites in the world.” Here To Stay is a permanent exhibit, along with upcoming musical performances in the Jazz Room. It is encouraged for CUNY students and any individuals with an appreciation for music to go and visit the museum and the new center. It’s a beautiful trip, and it will give them the chance to learn about Louis and jazz music.  

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