The deluxe show By Jan Butterfield The exterior of the building is cracked and broken and the sidewalk sprouts weeds. Inside the theater the foyer is dank and dark and peeling posters from old Frankenstein movies lie curled in the corners. \(The “flicks” will be revived “King Kong,” “Frankenstein,” “Step ‘n’ Fetchit” and “Amos and Andy” run daily in the balcony a “leader” which draws theater has deliberately not been restored in order to preserve its historical significance. Inside the theater proper nothing short of a miracle has been achieved. The stained walls, torn and faded seats and rolls of dust are gone, and in their place is a pristine white exhibition gallery. New walls of sheet rock have been put up, painted white and the newly-constructed gallery hung with special exhibition track lights. The show is a knockout. It is clean, relatively cohesive and beautifully installed. The exhibition is open seven days a week for the neighborhood and for anyone else who can find the Fifth Ward. Relative serenity reigns. It wasn’t always thus. Neighborhood Fifth Warders, conscious of territorial invasion, attempted a small scale disruption during the installation and tempers flared dangerously. Oil was eventually poured on troubled waters but they stood glaring, fearful of the intrusion. By the Sunday afternoon opening crowds from the neighborhood had begun to quietly drift in and the exhibition had become a fact. ACCORDING TO a press release the exhibition includes “New talent and more established artists”: What is implicit but not stated is that this is a very unique exhibition. Not only has it been organized “To enable those who would not attend a museum to see new and good works in familiar surroundings” but it has a much more far-reaching and important purpose. The exhibition includes some of the most important artists around who use color as structure, and some solid sculptors, but even more importantly it happens that roughly half of the artists included in the exhibition are black. The point of all of this is that a point is not made of it except through the Fifth Ward grapevine, where for many it is the only factor that gives the show credence. This curious and complex exhibition may be like a quiet underwater explosion, September 24, 1971 11 Houston Cheap handbills have been distributed in virtually every section of Houston which read “COME AND SEE THE DELUXE SHOW Art and Movies, 3303 Lyons Avenue, Admission Free.” In Houston’s “bloody” Fifth Ward the DeLuxe Theater is teeming with life. The de Menil Foundation, whose curious and intricately tangled web of involvement, both personal and financial, seems to weave itself about much of the more interesting art activity in the Houston area, has done it again. This time they have invited visiting curator Peter Bradley, associate curator of the prestigious Pens gallery in New York, to organize a special art exhibition. They also invited Mickey Leland, TSU teacher and Fifth Ward Community organizer, to help keep things cool. Kenneth Noland flew in to aid in installation of the exhibition, and New York poet Steve Cannon came down to write a documentary kind of catalog. The end result is a big gun show of more than little import which includes such art world luminaries as Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, Sam Gilliam, Larry Poons, Richard Hunt, Craig Kauffman, Darby Bannard, Dan Christensen, Michael Steiner and others. The old DeLuxe Theater is located in one of the seediest and most rundown areas of Houston if not in the Fifth Ward itself. Outside, the marquee is cracked and broken and faded plastic letters still hang tenaciously to its grid. Located between WILKE FURNITURE COMPANY Credit Terms and Jeff’s Tuxedo Rentals, it is a tattered remnant of another era. “The Old DeLuxe Theater is a point of historical significance for people who were raised in the Fifth Ward Community. It is a museum of everything, social and economic and life styles that depicted the era during and after World War II. . . . In April of 1941 the DeLuxe Theater became the ‘family show’ for Fifth Warders .. . white movie houses were still segregated and prior to the DeLuxe’s opening, community residents were faced with only two alternatives for entertainment the Roxy or the Lyons Theaters . . . where rats the size of kittens sometimes shared the seats of the people watching the movie.” DeLuxe Show press release
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