Madame Walker Theatre Center
Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company
Front of the building
|Architect||Jungclaus,W.; Rubush & Hunter|
|Architectural style||Late 19th and Early 20th Century American Movements|
|NRHP Reference #||80000062|
|Added to NRHP||July 17, 1980|
|Designated NHL||July 17, 1991|
The historic Madame C.J. Walker Building, which houses the Madame Walker Theatre Center, has long symbolized the spirit of creativity and community pride in the City of Indianapolis. Named after America’s first self-made female millionaire, Madam C.J. Walker, the site represents the achievements, art forms, culture and history of African American people. As Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company, it was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1991.
Walker began the development of the Walker Building and Theatre prior to her death in 1919. The project was subsequently completed by her daughter A'Lelia Walker and opened to the public in December 1927.
The Walker Building, located in the heart of the Indiana Avenue Cultural District, was the center of entertainment, business and pride for the City’s African American community from the 1920s to the 1950s. During the mid-50s, the building and its surrounding neighborhood began a gradual decline.
By the late 1970s, the Walker Building stood nearly abandoned (Walker Manufacturing Company remained housed in the building) and faced certain demolition. However, a group of committed African American citizens recognized the structure’s rich history and dedicated themselves to preserving the building. After becoming incorporated as the Madame Walker Building Urban Life Center in 1979, the group purchased the ailing building from the Walker Manufacturing Company and began planning for its restoration.
In 1982, the organization’s articles of incorporation were amended to reflect the organization’s new name of Madame Walker Urban Life Center. The not-for-profit organization was committed to reestablishing the facility as a steward for cultural expression and economic enterprise. Because the site was seen as the heart of a downtown neighborhood that had to be revitalized, the community worked hard to make that dream a reality.
In 1983, the first phase of the restoration, which housed offices and the Grand Casino Ballroom, was completed. A $2.5 million capital campaign raised funds to restore the famous 944-seat (now 935) Walker Theatre. The influence of African art forms in the vision of Madam Walker and her daughter for the design concept is apparent throughout the theatre. In 1988, the City of Indianapolis celebrated the gala opening of the fully restored Madame C.J. Walker Building. The site is now a National Historic Landmark, and it is registered on both the State and National Registers of Historic Places.
In 1996, the Madame Walker Urban Life Center became the Madame Walker Theatre Center to more fully reflect the organization’s vision and mission. Two office structures along Indiana Avenue—Walker Plaza, built in 1989 and 500 Place, completed in 1992—as two partners essential to the continued growth of the Madame Walker Theatre Center. As a result of these two ventures, the Walker Building once again stands as an economic anchor for the historic Indiana Avenue Cultural District.
Through the vibrancy of dramatic dance, the smooth, cool sounds of jazz and the evocative spirit of the theatre, the Walker Building builds bridges between artists and patrons.
The Madame Walker Theatre Center’s annual performing arts season opens in early October and continues until early May. Each season’s programs showcase the talents of local, regional, national and international artists; enlighten the community to a variety of art forms and entertain audiences in a way that encourages ongoing support of the arts.
Jazz on the Avenue. JOA includes the series presented once a month, Jazz Artists in Concert on the Main Stage or in a cabaret setting and the Indiana Avenue Renaissance Festival. These programs present local and national artists and provide opportunities for the community to be educated regarding jazz as an indigenous American art form.
Steppin' on the Avenue. SOA, presented the first Friday of the month, explores not only the meaning of paired dancing in African American life, but the way in which music, song and dance are interrelated in that culture. The program celebrates an art form similar to the Latino Salsa that has emanated the black community as pervasive, vital and distinctive as a form of creative expression.
Laughin' on the Avenue. LOA, presented the last Tuesday of the month, celebrates the art of laughter. The program showcases local and national artists.
Main Stage Series. These programs are primarily presented in the Madame Walker Theatre and include theatre, music and dance. In some cases, international artists presented under the category of Cultural Connections, usually showcased through workshops and classes, are also presented as part of the Main Stage season.
Artists presented as part of our performing arts programs are, in many cases, in residence at the theatre for two or more days, which allows them to develop and participate in community residency, education and humanities programming. These activities deepen the audience’s understanding of the creative process, broaden their knowledge of the country from which the work originates and allow for relationships with the artists to grow. Community involvement and participation are part of our ongoing efforts to develop audiences.
The educational programs of the Madame Walker Theatre Center are intended to foster in young people a cross-cultural appreciation for the arts.
Youth-in-Arts In 1987, the Madame Walker Theatre Center launched the Youth-in-Arts program, opening a world of possibilities to Indiana’s children. The program annually targets more than 150 youth who may or may not have the resources to experience the arts outside of their typical school setting. Youth-in-Arts reflects the Center’s mission as it seeks to “provide an environment of cross-cultural appreciation through nurturing and celebrating the artistic and cultural perspectives of African-Americans.
In 2007, the program was redesigned and now consists of three subprograms: 1) Project MAPPED; 2) CRUSHING the CONVENTIONAL, and 3) BEYOND THE WINGS. These fresh new offerings approach the arts through performance and scholarship with the goal of making them an inclusive, lifelong experience. Each new program targets students, teachers and parents.
The Youth-in-Arts mission is to “encourage, expose, explore, and expand the talents of young ‘arts-minded’ individuals by combining African-American cultural phenomena with an integrated arts environment that will ensure every participant the opportunity to experience various roles within the realm of artistic production, while also cultivating civic minded, highly motivated, respectful individuals.”
Project MAPPED M.A.P.P.E.D. is an acronym, which stands for Music, Art, Poetry, Performance, Expression, and Dance. The new program is a 12-week interdisciplinary arts curriculum offered 3 days a week in 2-hour intervals targeting grades 3 through 12 and serving students on all performance levels.
The program offers: • chorus & individual voice lessons, • string orchestra & individual string lessons, • poetry & spoken word writing • speech lessons • set production & visual arts, and • various genres of dance (i.e., modern, ballet, jazz, tap, hip hop).
Each session culminates with a semiprofessional performance on stage at the Madame Walker Theatre. The sessions are assigned themes dictated by specific historical events or phenomena within American and African-American culture. In addition to the daily rigors of the program, students enjoy workshops, lecture-demonstrations, and concerts that further introduce them to business practices in the music industry and expose them to the creative processes and aesthetics of various genres.
Crushing the Conventional This is a concert/lecture/master class series for students, educators and parents showcasing traditional and nontraditional art forms within the African and African-American Diaspora. Admission to these matinee performances is set at an affordable rate ($5 to $7 per performance). The series occurs during the school day and includes master classes and lectures for parents. The matinée series is scheduled to launch in February 2008.
Beyond the Wings This is a new Arts Administration introductory training initiative of the Center targeting high school students. The program exposes students to basic arts administrative duties and allows them enjoy the benefits of learning about the growing, popular field of arts administration, while collecting valuable community service credits many are required to obtain on a semester basis.
Arts in Education This program provides comprehensive arts experiences to Indianapolis Public School students and students in private, suburban and outlying school districts. The program utilizes artists in residence who are participating in our humanities or performing arts programs to provide workshops, master classes, lecture-demonstrations and mini-concerts that educate the student to the process, technique and aesthetics of various art forms. The Arts in Education program also includes the Children’s Performing Arts Series, which affords opportunities for students to attend matinée performances at the Madame Walker Theatre.
Madame Walker Academy for Girls This program provides comprehensive intermediate-level refinement skills to an underserved segment of the Indianapolis community. Through an ongoing series of workshops, lectures and activities, participants graduate from the academy armed with the ability to present themselves with poise and charm in a variety of settings. The program is open to girls ages 11–17.
Humanities Because the arts and humanities play important roles in shaping and enriching people’s lives, the Madame Walker Theatre Center’s programming for the humanities is designed to encourage participation by persons of all ages.
Writer’s Symposium Series This is an ongoing program of the Center and is designed to familiarize participants with the written word and its place in American culture. The program presents a series of dialogues based in and around the works of local, regional and national authors.
Walker Film Series The series of films is designed to bring visibility to national and international film and video with special emphasis on African and African-American and other ethnic filmmakers.
Tours & Living History Madame Walker Heritage Center. The Heritage Center serves as a display space and repository for information regarding Madam C.J. Walker’s life and legacy as well as the lives of African-Americans who have contributed to American culture. This street-level space offers tours, lectures and small heritage programs presented by local living history theatre Freetown Village. Each year, we anticipate serving more than 5,000 visitors in the Heritage Center.
Today and In The Future The Center continues to develop strong associations nationally, as well as in the local arts and cultural community. The Center provides facilities for Freetown Village and Iibada Dance Company. It serves as a rental facility for other arts, social, civic and business organizations to host their programs and activities.
Through its educational, performing arts and humanities programs, the center strives to better lives through positive cultural experiences.
Madame Walker Theatre
||This article appears to be written like an advertisement. (December 2007)|
The Madame Walker Theatre is used for pageants, musicals, concerts, lecturers, auditions and rehearsals, motion picture and video screenings, ceremonial awards presentations and other community events.
Features of the theatre include; Seating capacity of 935, professional lighting and sound, full stage with an Austrian-hung grand drape and fully equipped dressing rooms, lobby, box office services, bar lounge, catering and technical services, and free, secure parking
Additional event venues include the Grand Casino Ball Room, Walker Memorial Board Room and A’Lelia Bundles Conference Center.
The Madame Walker Theatre contains one of the few remaining African-Art Deco architectural motifs in the country. The interior ornamentation includes 150 original colors hand-applied during restoration, an Egyptian statuary, cubist-inspired African masks, 20-foot (6.1 m) spears and brass embellishments highlighted with a regal design, dramatic detail and plush seating.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2006-03-15.
- "Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company". National Historic Landmarks Program. National Park Service. Retrieved 2009-06-05.
- Miller, Paige Putnam (June 4, 1990). "National Historic Landmark Nomination: Madame C.J. Walker Building". National Park Service. and Accompanying four photos from 1990
- walkertheatre.com Official site
- “Two American Entrepreneurs: Madam C. J. Walker and J.C. Penney”, a National Park Service Teaching with Historic Places (TwHP) lesson plan
- Madame C. J. Walker Building from Indianapolis, a National Park Service Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary
- Official Madam Walker Biography site