Born in Newport News, Virginia on March 29, 1918, to Rev. Joseph and Ella Mae Bailey, Pearl was sister to the famed dancer Bill Bailey, Bailey. From an early age Pearl sang, performed, entertained and captivated her audiences throughout the world. An all-around entertainer with great success on Television, Film and the Broadway Stage, Bailey was a Tony and Emmy Award winning entertainer who often used her celebrity for good causes. With humor, compassion and a strong faith Ms. Bailey penned six books. She was the United States Goodwill Ambassador to the Unite Nations and worked tirelessly on behalf of literacy and AIDS prevention/awareness. Pearl Bailey passed away unexpectedly on August 17, 1990. In 1988 the City of Newport News named its Wickham Avenue Library in honor of Ms. Bailey.
Anderson Johnson became a street preacher at the age of eight and spent most of his life preaching in churches and on street corners throughout America. When he fell ill in the early 1970's he returned to his native Virginia, where he spent more than twenty years transforming his two-story home into a "faith mission" decorated from floor to ceiling with portraits and visionary images. He conducted lively church services to a small gathering of devotees at his Faith Mission every Sunday; these weekly gatherings were impassioned outpourings of religious zeal, with Reverend Johnson preaching, singing, and playing various instruments. In 1995, the Faith Mission was condemned, but then saved by concerned citizens, members of the Folk Art Society of America and the City of Newport News. Reverend Anderson Johnson passed away in 1998.
Dubbed “The First Lady of Song” Ella Jane Fitzgerald was born on April 25, 1917 in Newport News, Virginia just a few blocks from here on Marshall Street to her parents William Fitzgerald and Temperance Williams. Nicknamed “The First Lady of Song”, Ella was the most popular female singer in the United States for more than half a century. She recorded over 200 albums, sold over 40 million copies, won 13 Grammy awards and was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Ronald Reagan. In 2007, the U.S. Postal Service honored Ella with a commemorative stamp. Ella Fitzgerald passed away on June 15, 1996.
A master choreographer and dance instructor in the Tidewater area, Hayes produced the popular CHOREO recitals for forty years to provide performance experience for his students in the Tidewater and Hampton Roads region. He studied with Katherine Dunham in New York City, Martha Graham at her School of Contemporary Dance, at Ballet Arts in Carnegie Hall and at the New York Dance Group of Broadway. Hayes taught his many students the relationship between a successful performance and success in their daily lives. The Downing Gross Cultural Arts Center named their dance studio the Thaddeus Hayes Dance Studio in 2009 to honor the extraordinary accomplishments of this educator, dancer and choreographer.
In the company of great musicians who have risen from the Hampton Roads area to international acclaim, The Unifics remain a show-stopping soul group, whose legendary performances thrill crowds and leave following acts stunned with trepidation. Originally established at Howard University by musical aficionados, Al Johnson and Tom Fauntleroy, the Unifics continue to raise the bar with audiences that appreciate real music and polished showmanship. With each show a lesson in musical history and professionalism, singers Charlie Lockhart and Garrett Hall round out the fine-tuned musical foursome. Prolific songwriters, their impressive catalog of published and unpublished songs are highly sought after in the industry. Their most recent tribute song “Victims of 9-11” continues to play center stage at many 10th anniversary tributes across the country.
The Five Keys
The Five Keys are an American rhythm and blues vocal group that was instrumental in shaping this genre in the 1950s. The Keys formed from two sets of brothers, Rudy and Bernard West and Raphael and Ripley Ingram. Calling themselves the Sentimental Four, they practiced in their local church in Newport News, Virginia, and on the streets of Jefferson Avenue and 25th Street. The group was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2002.
Born in the Hilton Village historic district in Newport News, Virginia, Styron was an American Novelist and essayist. Many of his works have reached critical acclaim: Lie Down in Darkness, The Long March, Set this House on Fire, The Confessions of Nat Turner, Sophie’s Choice, Shadrach, This Quiet Dust and Other Writings, Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness, A Tidewater Morning: Three Tales from Youth and Havanas in Camelot. The city of Newport News and Developer Bobby Freeman honored Styron with a mixed-use development “Port Warwick” named after a fictional city in Styron’s Lie Down in Darkness. William Styron passed away in Martha’s Vineyard on November 1, 2006.
Queen Esther Marrow
Discovered by the great Duke Ellington, this celebrated “First Lady of Gospel Music” began her extraordinary career at the age of 22. Queen actively joined the Civil Rights movement when she performed in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “World Crusade”. With monumental success ranging from musical theater to television to film, Queen always returns to her first and truest love, gospel music.
Lutrelle "Pete" Home
Native of Newport News, Horne was Associate Director of the Captain Kangaroo program. He returned to Hampton Institute as an instructor in the Mass Media Department in 1967. He returned to New York when CTW launched its experimental children's series. Horne was responsible for the day-to-day studio production of the Workshop's widely acclaimed television program for preschoolers - Sesame Street. Sesame Street was so successful that Horne was awarded two Emmy's for children's programming. Eventually, CTW expanded Sesame Street internationally and Horne was promoted to Executive Vice-President of the International Productions Department of CTW taking Sesame Street International. For several years, he operated his own company- Frantrelle Productions, Inc. Lu has written feature film scripts; lectured and consulted for several universities and institutions. He was a member of the Director's Guild of America and Writer's Guild of America. He retired from CTW in 1990.
A native of Newport News, Virginia, Williams learned to play guitar as a child, but started his professional career with the Dells at age 18. This career was interrupted when he was drafted to serve in Vietnam. Upon returning home he hooked up with the Temptations and eventually settled in Los Angeles to do studio work. Although he's featured on many albums his steadily growing success didn't begin until he was brought to Michael Jackson's attention by Quincy Jones for 1979's Off The Wall album. He was also featured on every song but one (second only to Tito Jackson) for The Jacksons' 1980 Triumph album; and played on The Jacksons concert tour that resulted in their 1982 The Jacksons Live! album. David Williams was a popular session guitarist on other albums for many famous artists. He was hired to play by The Pointer Sisters (1980), Peter Allen (1980), Aretha Franklin (1980) and The Four Tops (1981).
After the success of these projects Williams became one of the most in-demand pop music union session guitarists for the next decade, recording with Madonna, Julio Iglesias, George Benson, The Manhattan Transfer, Michael McDonald, Melissa Manchester, The Temptations, Stevie Nicks, Rod Stewart, and many more.
Robert Cray a graduate of Denbigh High School in Newport News is an American blues guitarist and singer. A five-time Grammy Award winner, he has led his own band (The Robert Cray Band), as well as an acclaimed solo career. In 2011, Cray was inducted to the Blues Hall of Fame.
While Cray was among artists such as Stevie Ray Vaughan and George Thorogood who got wider radio airplay and regular MTV video exposure during the late 1980s, he started playing guitar in his early teens. By the time he was twenty, Cray had seen his heroes Albert Collins, Freddie King and Muddy Waters in concert, and decided to form his own band. His band started playing college towns on the west coast. After several years of regional success, Cray was signed to Mercury Records in 1982. His third release, Strong Persuader, received a Grammy Award, while the crossover single “Smokin’ Gun” gave him wider appeal and name recognition.
The Poindexters have earned numerous gold and platinum records for recordings by some of the biggest artists in the entertainment industry. Through early hits recorded by artists such as the Ojays, Linda Jones, Jimi Hendrix, the Persuaders, the Manhattans and others, the Poindexters pioneered new trends, styles and forms in R&B and Pop music. The Poindexters were in the forefront of the 1970s vocal group resurgence with their classic, A Thin Line Between Love and Hate by the Persuaders, I'll Be Sweeter Tomorrow by the Ojays, She's a Fox by Jimi Hendrix and It's Gonna Take a Lot by the Manhattans. The Poindexters have also written and produced for Sam and Dave, Dee Dee Warwick, Randy Crawford, Maya Angelou, Florence Ballard of the Supremes, Tina Marie, Kid Frost, the Escorts, Joe Bataan, the Hesitations, 9.9 and many others. Noted producers who have produced the Poindexters' songs include Roger Troutman, James Brown, Rick James, Richard Dimple Fields, BennyGholson, Jay Z, Damon Dash, Will Smith, Chris Thomas, John Legend and Kanye West.
Born in Newport News Bulifant is a television actress who guest starred on a variety of shows to include Perry Mason, Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Love Thy Neighbor, Police Woman, Three’s Company, Alice, The Facts of Life, Harper Valley PTA, The Bill Cosby Show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Big John, Little John, Flo and Just Shoot Me in addition to guest starring on television, she was a guest panelist on a number of game shows, her most notable was her reoccurring appearances on Match Game.
An American actor who was born on June 10, 1949 in Newport News Virginia to Carmena (nee Gantt) and Edgar Faison. Faison began his career in the New York Shakespeare Festival production of King Lear, with James Earl Jones in the title role. He was nominated for Broadway’s 1987 Tony Award as Best Actor for August Wilson’s “Fences”. Faison has over 80 film and television credits to his name. Faison is the only actor to appear in the first four Hannibal Lecter films. He played Lt. Fisk in Manhunter, and Barney in The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal and the Red Dragon. Most recently Faison played in Tyler Perry's “Meet the Browns” where Faison played the role of L.B. Brown. Faison resides with his family in New Jersey.
Literary critic, educator, lecturer, author, and biographer Addison Gayle was born in Newport News. One of the chief advocates of the Black Aesthetic, Addison Gayle, Jr., was inspired by Richard Wright and hoped that a writing career would enable him to overcome the strictures of poverty and racism. Gayle's best-known work, The Black Aesthetic (1971), is a compilation of essays written by prominent African American writers and leading Black Aesthetic theorists. Gayle championed cultural nationalism and argued that the central aim of the African American artist was to address and improve social and political conditions. Gayle continued his advocacy of the Black Aesthetic tradition in Way of a New World (1975), a literary history of the African American novel, and his three biographies: Oak and Ivy: A Biography of Paul Laurence Dunbar (1971), Claude McKay: The Black Poet at War (1972), and Richard Wright: Ordeal of a Native Son (1980). Gayle's autobiography, Wayward Child: A Personal Odyssey (1977) offers a frank and sobering account of his life, which painfully details the exacting price of his indefatigable pursuit of literary excellence. Gayle also distinguished himself as a professor of English at the City University of New York's Bernard M. Baruch College, where he taught until his death in October 1991.
The Newsome House & Cultural Center
The Newsome House honors the legacy of Lawyer and Editor, Joseph Thomas Newsome by engaging the public in an ongoing study and remembrance of African American history and culture.
The restored 1899 home of the African-American attorney J. Thomas Newsome and his wife Mary Winfield Newsome. Newsome was a respected attorney, journalist, churchman and civic leader and a member of the postwar Civil War South's new urban African-American middle class. His elegant Queen Anne residence served as the hub of the local black community from which he led the fight for social justice within Virginia. Listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register, the National Register of Historic Places and Recipient of a 1992 National Historic Preservation Award. Permanent exhibit on Lawyer Newsome and changing exhibits available for public viewing. Special events held throughout the year.
James A. Fields House
The James A. Fields House is historically significant for its long association with the development of the social and civic life of the African-American community in Newport News. The house was used by Mr. Fields as his law office and primary residence from 1897 to 1903. In 1908, four doctors pooled their savings and asked the Fields family for use of the top floor to start a hospital. Other than the city jail's infirmary, this institution represented the only outlet for hospitalization for blacks, and provided two years of generous service to the black community. The Fields House was just one of fifteen properties owned by Mr. Fields in Newport News. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places. In 2005, the house was placed on the Virginia Civil War Trails as a museum site.
William Pinkett Stage
The King-Lincoln Park stage is dedicated to William Ward Pinkett who was an African American civic leader, tailor and musician in the first half of the 1900’s. He was so popular to his community in the East End they began referring to the waterfront near his home as “Pinkett’s Beach”. A community leader and business man, William Ward Pinkett also allowed his property to be used as a meeting ground for civil rights and humanitarian issues.
America’s National Maritime Museum”, The Mariners’ makes a difference in peoples’ lives, inviting them to discover their relationship to the sea by exploring maritime culture, science and history. The Mariners’ Museum is committed to using its art and artifacts to educate local, national and international audiences of all ages about the vital role of the sea in mankind’s development. The Museum aspires to be the leader in promoting an appreciation of the maritime world – past, present and future.
The Mariners’ Museum Park and Lake Maury offer the residents of and visitors to the area the opportunity to experience the beauty and peace of an oasis in the city, to enjoy healthy exercise on the Noland Trail and to enhance their appreciation of the natural habitat of the park.
Virginia Living Museum
Opened in 1966 as the Junior Nature Museum and Planetarium through the combined efforts of the Junior League of Hampton Roads and the Warwick Rotary Club, the facility expanded and was renamed the Peninsula Nature and Science Center in 1976.
In 1987, the facility again expanded and was renamed the Virginia Living Museum, becoming the first living museum east of the Mississippi, combining the elements of a native wildlife park, science museum, aquarium, botanical preserve and planetarium.
Today, the Virginia Living Museum continues to be a museum leader in its use of native wildlife to present its message – stimulating knowledge, awareness and appreciation of the living world.
Visitors to the Living Museum encounter more habitats, wildlife and plant species than would be encountered in a lifetime of outdoor adventures in Virginia. The exhibits showcase all of the state’s regions from the upland coves of the Appalachian Mountains to the salty offshore waters of the Atlantic Ocean and feature more than 245 different animal species.
Peninsula Fine Arts Center
The Museum’s unique exhibits are also a vital component in its extensive education programming. The Museum believes in hands-on education; that by experiencing science it will become memorable.
More than two million students have visited the Museum since 1987. All of the Museum’s classes are correlated to Virginia’s Standards of Learning and targeted to specific grade levels.
Ferguson Center for the Arts
The Ferguson Center for the Arts is a theater and concert hall on the campus of Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia, USA. The complex fully opened in September 2005 with two concert halls and many other facilities. In just over a decade, Christopher Newport University’s Ferguson Center for the Arts has become an international force, presenting the finest cultural attractions in the world. Nearly 2 million people from around the world have experienced more than 500 hundred performances in our acoustically superb theaters. The eclectic nature of the Center's season is consistent with its mission: to offer a broad range of performances, reach the largest possible number of community members, all-the-while maintaining its status as the finest performing arts center in Hampton Roads.
Newport News Public Art Foundation
The Newport News Public Art Foundation is dedicated to helping make Newport News an appealing place to live, work, visit and do business by placing monumental-scale works of art by respected sculptors throughout the city, where people can enjoy art as they go about their daily lives. The Foundation also works to encourage and help the public enjoy, appreciate and engage with the sculpture around them, through outreach and education programs.
Built in 1769 by Colonel William Harwood, the house has witnessed the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Civil War. It was used as a field hospital by Confederate and Union troops and as the headquarters for Union General McClellan during the 1862 Peninsula Campaign. An exhibition gallery and gift shop are located in the basement.
Lee Hall Mansion
Built in 1858 by Richard Decauter Lee, Lee Hall is an antebellum Italianate mansion which served as the headquarters for Confederate Generals Magruder and Johnston during the 1862 Peninsula Campaign. The Peninsula Campaign Exhibition Gallery and a gift shop are located in the basement.
Lee Hall Train Depot
This historic train station was constructed in 1881 as part of the C&O Railroad's efforts to establish its Atlantic terminus at Newport News. Closed since the 1970s, the City of Newport News, in conjunction with the nonprofit Friends of the Lee Hall Depot Foundation, is working to relocate and preserve this historic depot, the last remaining station on the Lower Peninsula from the railroad's expansion into Warwick County.
Virginia War Museum
The museum traces American military history from the Revolutionary War to the present. The collections include over 65,000 artifacts, including Harry Truman's WWI helmet, a section of the Berlin Wall, and one of the nation's largest collections of propaganda posters. The Duffle Bag gift shop is located in the museum's foyer.
FIND YOUR MUSE AT DOWNING-GROSS
From children's musical theater programs, to adults-only spoken word poetry slams, there's an art for everybody. Check our our upcoming events, or contact 757-247-8950 to inquire about our workshops, camps, and other youth programs.