Stepping into the Jazz Age in D.C.
April 25, 1997
Web posted at: 12:00 a.m. EDT (0000 GMT)
(CNN) -- One of the most vibrant eras of jazz is coming out of mothballs and dusting off its French. The Smithsonian Institution is unveiling an exhibit dedicated to the creative surge in Paris in the 1920s and 30s that lured American writers, artists, dancers and musicians -- especially those carrying the seeds of modern jazz.
"The Jazz Age in Paris, 1914-1940" debuts Friday at the Center for African American History and Culture in Washington. American entertainers and artists, including many African Americans, flocked to Paris after World War I to take advantage of its open artistic and racial climate. The exhibit tells their stories through photographs, posters, paintings and their own words.
"The idea for this exhibit actually came about because we were working on an earlier exhibit on Duke Ellington," says Deborah Macanic, the project director. "I was looking at scrapbooks of people who were entertainers -- many of whom had migrated permanently or temporarily to Paris -- and we decided to do [the Jazz Age exhibit] as a scrapbook."
Visitors enter the exhibit through a re-creation of an old French boulevard in the Montmarte section of Paris, famous for its jazz clubs. Alice-in-Wonderland- sized scrapbook pages display firsthand accounts of the Americans who were there. Kiosks, like those used in Paris for posting concerts and performances, provide background information on the climate of the era.
Though there are no instruments on display, Macanic says music is the focus.
"Very often, when you hear people talk about the Jazz Age, they talk about fashion and culture and writing, but not jazz," she says. "This exhibit looks very closely at American expatriates, and takes a very close look at jazz artists, the people who wrote about jazz artists and the [visual] artists who began approaching jazz."
"Paris in the Jazz Age, 1914-1940" runs through July 13 at the Smithsonian's Center for African American History in Washington. At the end of August, the exhibit will begin a national tour of 10 cities.
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