Black visionary-designer duo shapes forthcoming cultural center in Madison
MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Described as the “lifeblood of the Black community,” a three-story, 60,000 sq. ft. project is coming to Madison.
“This project is a place where Black creativity, Black thought, Black intelligence can live and flourish,” said Lead Designer Rafeeq Asad.
The Center for Black Excellence and Culture is set to be built on the 700 block of W. Badger Rd. near Park St.
Looking at a fall 2024 opening, the Center will be a hub for leadership development, entertainment and storytelling.
“The point is to retain and develop and curate the Black experience in and around this region,” Asad said.
Asad, a vice president at Monona-based JLA Architects, is one of many Black community members involved in the building process.
“It’ll be a place where we can share our culture, from our hearts, from our lips, from our hands to the broader community,” said the Center’s Founder and CEO Rev. Dr. Alex Gee. “It’s going to be really the lifeblood of the Black community around the state.”
Gee said he first had the idea for the Center more than 25 years ago. In recent years speaking with Black community members, he said, “There’s not enough here that reinforces our culture and tells the story of our positive contributions to this community.”
Asad, who is Black, said, “It’s the first time… that I’ve been in a position to where I am working with and for people who look like me. That doesn’t happen in architecture very often.”
In fact, Asad is among just 2 percent of Black architects in the country, according to the National Organization for Minority Architects. He is also one of about 6 percent of Black residents in Dane County, according to 2021 population estimates from the U.S. Census.
Asad plans to highlight symbols like strength and resiliency through the design of the Center’s exterior, using materials like concrete and corten steel.
According to the website, every year the Center will support thousands of students learning Black history and thousands of audience members tuning into Black performances and art.
The Center has raised more than $23 million so far, Gee said. Ways to contribute include the following:
- Mail in a check, making it out to “Center for Black Excellence and Culture” and addressing it to P.O. Box 259042 Madison, WI 53725-9042.
- Give a gift of stock or annuity. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
- Donate online by clicking here.
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