Prince George's African American Museum & Cultural Center

Steve Monroe | 11/22/2011, 2:02 a.m.

Promoting culture, raising funds for new building

Along a stretch of Rhode Island Avenue in North Brentwood is a gritty residential and light industrial section of Prince George's County right outside the D.C. line with the street marked by mostly small businesses and warehouses, but with more than a few vacant buildings and stretches of vacant fields.

But just past Webster Avenue, heading north, is an off-white building featuring a colorful mural and flowering tree, announcing the coming of the $25 million Prince George's African American Museum & Cultural Center (PGAAMCC), a marker for the future that helps serve as a beacon and a reminder of the hard work in process for reshaping the area and boosting the county's cultural image of itself.

The PGAAMCC has an interim space, called Gallery 110, further south on the avenue in a Gateway Community Development Corporation building, which has had exhibits for more than a year as the organization gains its footing. With a full slate of community programs for young and old, the museum debuts a new exhibit Dec. 15.

Meanwhile everyone is focused on the ultimate goal--a new building. A capital campaign is in the works to launch in the first quarter of 2012, according to PGAAMCC executive director Dr. Jacqueline F. Brown, and the plans are for groundbreaking within the next three years.

"This is so much closer to the people," said Brown, a longtime public official, of her new task with the PGAAMCC. "Something I have done on my journey is to lift up the goodness of African American history, I have a long background in that and to be able at this point in my life, to be able to create this type of experience for the people of Prince George's County, who deserve a first class African American museum and culture center, means so much to me."

Previously chief administrative officer for the Prince George's County government and with time also served on the board of directors of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority, among other groups, Brown adds, "And it is also fun to work with very talented young and creative people, a curator, creative designer, videographer... I remember saying I've used every skill in my 50 some years of public service, but never used the skill in creating a place to house African American history and culture and I guess the powers that be heard me and said [smiles], well, we'll take care of that now."

Gateway Executive Director Michael Gumpert, whose organization has worked on revitalization for several years in the area, said, "The PGAAMC is really one of the gems of the Gateway Arts District."

"While history is deep to some, others find this kind of stuff dry and boring. The latter are going to be surprised I think. Don't think history as learned in a textbook. Think history as experienced through food, music, oral history, film, art, music and interactive events and you'll begin to see why this Museum fits so well in an arts district," Gumpert said.