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THEMUSEUM Commits to Arts and Cultural Investments, Donates $10,000 to Highlighting Black Heritage in Waterloo Region

Statue and inaugural music festival celebrating legendary blues guitarist Mel Brown and his impact on the local community will be driven by notable Black community leaders


Kitchener, ON | February 26, 2021 — Today, THEMUSEUM announced its plans to spearhead significant arts and cultural investments in Waterloo Region that celebrate Black heritage and shine a spotlight on Mel Brown — the famous blues guitarist who left a lasting legacy in his adopted community of Kitchener. 

With the input and blessing of Mel’s widow, Miss Angel Brown, a steering committee has been formed to begin planning some exciting initiatives. The steering committee includes MPP for Kitchener Centre, Laura Mae Lindo; local artists, Juno Award winners and multiple nominees Carlos Morgan and Alysha Brilla; and Marcia Smellie, former educator and current President of the Congress of Black Women — Waterloo Region Chapter. Supporting the group are Lee Willingham, Professor, Music Education and Director, Laurier Centre for Music in the Community; and THEMUSEUM’s CEO David Marskell. 

The Mel Brown Project includes two initiatives. The first is a quest to raise enough money to be able to install a life-sized statue of Mel Brown commissioned by a Canadian Black artist for debut at the same time that The Rolling Stones | UNZIPPED will be making its exclusive Canadian premiere in Waterloo Region.

Mel Brown’s ties with The Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger aligns with the current plans to unveil the statue at the debut of UNZIPPED. Close companions since the 1970s, Brown and Jagger served as major influences on one another’s musical careers.  

To kickstart the campaign, THEMUSEUM will be contributing $10,000 to the statue fund. “This project coincides with the values of my parents and their life’s work at the Church they built. Using the funds from their Church’s charity which were transferred to THEMUSEUM in 2017, we are thrilled to be able to support and help educate such an important project that will tell the story of a black musician and his influence on our community.”

“If the community steps up and we are successful in raising additional funds, the sculpture will stand and greet guests at THEMUSEUM entrance on King Street West in Downtown Kitchener for the duration of UNZIPPED. It is meant to ensure the tens of thousands of people visiting make the transformative connection that there would be no Rolling Stones band if not for the influence of Black musicians. The statue would be relocated to a permanent home, in consultation with the community following the exhibition,” said Marskell.

Mel and Miss Angel Brown accepted the invitation of Glenn Smith, owner and operator of Pop the Gator and relocated to Kitchener in the 1970s. Mel Brown with the Homewreckers became the house band at Pop the Gator on Queen Street around the corner from THEMUSEUM. Mel had such an immediate impact on the community that he instigated the Kitchener Blues Festival. “Not many people realize that the Rolling Stones took their name from a Muddy Waters song, Rollin Stone, and how much Black musicians actually influenced their music,” said Smith.

During its initial meeting, the steering committee agreed to build upon the statue project with the creation of an annual Mel Brown Music Festival. As a second initiative, a group of fifteen people has begun exploring the possibilities of an inaugural event with experiences, dialogues, films and live music planned for Spring 2022. 

“We were thrilled at the response and creativity from the community. Academic communities around the world are addressing a legacy of systemic racism that has marginalized wide sectors of society,” said Lee Willingham, who is helping to coordinate the inaugural Mel Brown Music Festival. “A festival with space for dialogue — a space to tell the Mel Brown story through the lens of anti-racism and curriculum renewal provides Wilfrid Laurier University with a unique opportunity to continue this important conversation, and to partner with THEMUSEUM in advancing the work of artist-musicians of colour.”

“The addition of the Mel Brown statue and the creation of the Mel Brown Music Festival in our community will allow us to continue immersing, educating and talking about the shared heritage that exists among our local and broader Black communities. We want every single person who engages with the statue or enjoys music at the festival to walk away with a better understanding of themselves, each other and our world. That is the ultimate goal,” said Marskell. 

THEMUSEUM’s dedication to diversity in its programming and commitment to showcasing exhibitions highlighting different communities has contributed to its longstanding run as a world-class cultural destination. Past exhibitions such as Beauty in Islamic Art, Land Back Camp: Our Voices, Walking Together, The Havana Dialogue, ONE LOVE: The Bob Marley Exhibition, and A Russian Accent have been brought to the community by THEMUSEUM in efforts to highlight global communities. 

To further celebrate Black History Month 2021, THEMUSEUM has launched a Spotlight on Black Heritage program, partnering with the Guelph Black Heritage Society to create two unique totes for purchase. 100% of the project’s profits will be shared between the Guelph Black Heritage Society and the tote designer, Kween of The Kween Company. 

Details regarding corporate and public donations towards The Mel Brown Project can be found at https://www.canadahelps.org/en/dn/59765

Tickets are on sale now for The Rolling Stones | UNZIPPED. For more information on the exhibition and ticket sales, visit www.unzippedkw.ca.  




Additional Quotes

“I am most pleased and honoured to be a part of the steering committee and team in creating and developing the “Mel Brown Music Festival” in honor of the late, great Blues musician, Mel Brown. Mel Brown brought deep history and roots of Blues Music to Kitchener-Waterloo. His vast, rich, significant and indelible contributions to the musical landscape of Kitchener-Waterloo is most notable and should be recognized, acknowledged and respected, perpetually.

As well, through the MBMF, all genres of Black Music and artists can be seen, heard and receive the recognition and acknowledgment they so richly deserve. Aspects of the MBMF will include scholarly education about Mr. Brown, the history of Black Music in Canada and addressing racism and decolonization of music curriculum in education and in the Canadian Music Industry on a whole.  

The “Mel Brown Music Festival” will honour, acknowledge and recognize Mel Brown’s music and legacy, and be a platform for the eclectic, diverse genres and styles of Black music in KW to be seen and heard for generations to come.”

Carlos Morgan, The Mel Brown Project steering committee member



Laura Mae Lindo, MPP, Kitchener Centre 

Alysha Brilla, 3x Juno Award-nominated artist and musician 

Carlos Morgan, Juno Award winner Canadian soul and rhythm blues singer

Marcia Smellie, former educator and current President of the Congress of Black Women — Waterloo Region Chapter 

Lee Willingham, Professor, Music Education and Director, Laurier Centre for Music in the Community 

David Marskell, CEO, THEMUSEUM



November 30, 2021 through February 27, 2022

The Rolling Stones | UNZIPPED delivered by DHL is the first international exhibition by and about the world-famous rock band. Following engagements in London, the United States, Australia and Asia, the show toured Europe in revamped form in 2020. The exhibition features hundreds of original Stones artefacts and memorabilia, offering the most comprehensive and immersive insight into the band’s nearly sixty-year journey. 

Website: www.UNZIPPEDkw.ca 


We are THEMUSEUM – onewordUPPERCASE. We are a new kind of experiential museum – one of maverick ideas and unexpected intersections. No dusty objects and no velvet ropes. We are a premier cultural destination dedicated to presenting fresh, inspired content from around the globe in unique and immersive ways designed to showcase art & technology at play. 

Website: wwwTHEMUSEUM.ca 

Website: www.UNZIPPEDkw.ca 

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For media inquiries, please contact:

Madison Lambden

519-994-1912 | madison@durrellcomm.com | media@THEMUSEUM.ca