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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”

Joliet in Will County, Illinois — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)
 

Katherine Dunham: Pioneer in African Dance

 
 
Katherine Dunham: Pioneer in African Dance Marker image. Click for full size.
By Jason Voigt, September 30, 2020
1. Katherine Dunham: Pioneer in African Dance Marker
Inscription.  This sculpture of cold cast bronze depicts Katherine Dunham, a Joliet native and among the most influential figures in 20th-century art. She was a dancer, actor, choreographer, anthropologist, author and activist who raised African/Caribbean dance traditions to a modern art form.

Dunham was born in Glen Ellyn, Illinois in 1909 and moved to Joliet when she was five. She first studied dance at Joliet Township High School and Joliet Junior College. She moved to Chicago in 1927 where she studied tap dancing, ballet, and acting. In the early 1930's, she opened a dance school and performed at the Chicago Opera House and the Chicago World's Fair. In 1935, while attending Northwestern University, she won a grant to tour the West Indies, where she studied Afro-Caribbean dance, religion, and folklore. A year later she received a degree in social anthropology from the University of Chicago.

Dunham opened the Dunham School of Dance in New York, which trained dancers in classical ballet, African and Caribbean dance forms, and other cultural arts. She also became the first black choreographer at the Metropolitan Opera, when she choreographed
Katherine Dunham: Pioneer in African Dance Marker image. Click for full size.
By Jason Voigt, September 30, 2020
2. Katherine Dunham: Pioneer in African Dance Marker
Marker is next to the statue. Both are in front of Joliet's Amtrak union station.
Aida for the Met's 1963-64 season.

Since 1967 Dunham has lived in East St. Louis, where she has been affiliated with Southern Illinois University - as founder of the East St. Louis Center for the Performing Arts. There she has developed cultural arts programs for disadvantaged youth. In 1983, she was the recipient of the Kennedy Centers Honors Award in recognition of her lifetime achievements in the performing arts.

Lead sculptural artist: Kathleen Farrell, Assistant artists: Roger Carlson, Saul Chavira, Dante DiBartolo, Sarah Furst, Caryn Carew Horvat, Andrea Roundtree. Mosiac artist: Kathleen Farrell. Sculpture/mosaic sponsored by the City of Joliet. Plaque sponsored by the City of Joliet and by a grant from the Illinois Humanities Council, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Illinois General Assembly. This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. Copyright Friends of Community Public Art 2001

(photo caption:)

In July of 2002, Katherine Dunham, in her nineties, was honored by the City of Joliet. Currently, she is raising funds for the Katherine Dunham Museum, the Dunham African Artisans Village and the Dunham Children's Workshop performance arts facility.
 
Erected by the City of Joliet, the Illinois Humanities
Katherine Dunham image. Click for more information.
By Phyllis Twachtman
3. Katherine Dunham
Twachtman, World Telegram staff photographer - Library of Congress. New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection.
Click for more information.
Council, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Illinois General Assembly. (Marker Number CC,27.)
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African AmericansArts, Letters, MusicWomen.
 
Location. 41° 31.476′ N, 88° 4.798′ W. Marker is in Joliet, Illinois, in Will County. Marker is on U.S. 6 south of East Jefferson Street (U.S. 30), on the right when traveling north. Marker and statue are in front of Joliet's Amtrak station. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 50 E Jefferson St, Joliet IL 60432, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Sauk Trail (within shouting distance of this marker); Joliet Steam Train (within shouting distance of this marker); Hickory Creek in the 1830's (within shouting distance of this marker); Morris Building (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Samuel Benedict Reed (about 500 feet away); Civil War Memorial (about 500 feet away); Illinois Sesquicentennial Time Capsule (about 600 feet away); Will County Courthouse (about 600 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Joliet.
 
Also see . . .  Katherine Dunham on Wikipedia. Dunham (1909-2006) has been called the "matriarch and queen mother of black dance". She was a tireless social activist for several decades from the
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1940s (when Dunham refused to sign a Hollywood studio contract) to the 1990s when she went on a hunger strike in protest of U.S. policy towards Haitian boat people. (Submitted on February 23, 2021, by Jason Voigt of Glen Carbon, Illinois.) 
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on February 23, 2021. It was originally submitted on February 23, 2021, by Jason Voigt of Glen Carbon, Illinois. This page has been viewed 41 times since then. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on February 23, 2021, by Jason Voigt of Glen Carbon, Illinois.
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Mar. 2, 2021