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Chicago loses blues museum momentum to St. Louis

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Updated: January 20, 2013 6:11AM

Roll over Beethoven.

And tell Tchaikovsky the news.

The National Blues Museum, scheduled to open in 2014 in downtown St. Louis — the home of rock ’n’ rollers Chuck Berry and Ike and Tina Turner ­— just got a major financial boost.

Chicago, arguably the home of the blues, is left out in the cold.

The National Blues Museum will receive a $6 million contribution from Pinnacle Entertainment and Lumiere Place Casino. The 23,000-square-foot museum, with a 2,000-square-foot theater, will showcase the blues as the foundation for modern American music .

Chicago has a lengthy history of blues, jazz and gospel museum efforts. None has come to fruition.

Over the summer, the idea of “The Blues Experience,” a blues museum-nightclub with classroom space, was introduced for the former Block 37 shopping center on State Street. It was reported that William Selonick, executive managing director in the Chicago office of the New York-based brokerage Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, was spearheading the project. This week, Selonick had a stern “no comment” regarding “The Blues Experience.”

Michelle Boone, commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, said the city remains committed to the blues.

“From the city’s perspective, 2013 is going to be the 30th anniversary for the blues festival,” Boone said. “We want to use that as a platform to do outreach to the world about Chicago blues in a way we haven’t done before.”

The St. Louis location is similar to what Chicago is planning for a Motor Row (Music Row) area centering around the historic Chess Records site, a block away from McCormick Place. National Blues Museum advisors include Patrick Gallagher of Gallagher & Associates, which has provided museum exhibition and design and master planning for the B.B. King Museum in Mississippi and the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, and Bob Santelli, a blues author and historian who is executive director of the Grammy Museum at L.A. Live.

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