BONHAM — Throughout this month, the Creative Arts Center in Bonham will be taking note of a local musician who made a large impact on the music world. The Black History Month display at the center will feature Bonham-born guitarist Charlie Christian, and will include historic photos and artwork.
“Charlie Christian was born and buried in Bonham,” Creative Arts Center Executive Director Lisa Avila said. “He is actually better known in the rest of the world than he was known in his hometown.”
Born in 1916, Christian only spent a few years in the area before moving to Oklahoma with his family. Christian died in 1942 at the age of 26.
“Many people think that he was the first to play the electric guitar,” Avila said. “But, that is not true. He was the first to master the single string solo on electric guitar.”
Christian auditioned for Benny Goodman in 1939 and is best known for the big band music that he played.
“We have a book here that was written by Anita G. Arnold that talks about the area where Christian did a lot of his playing in Oklahoma,” Avila said. “Deep Deuce was a place in Oklahoma City that was really big for musicians during that era. Charlie spent his youth and adulthood in Oklahoma City.”
The Creative Arts Center annually recognizes Christian during the month of February. The first tribute to the guitarist was in 2012.
“For a number of years, we have had a musical tribute to Charlie Christian,” Avila said. “We would either play his music or music in the same style. The big band era is really popular around here.”
In May, the Creative Arts Center will host its art festival and the Big Band Express will be doing a tribute to Christian.
“All of us need to examine where we are from,” Avila said. “In Japan, Charlie Christian is huge. He should be just as revered here as he is there. Bonham was also the home to the opera singer Roberta Dodd Crawford who was from the same era. We need to celebrate her too.”
Avila said celebrating local individuals that have gone on to make names for themselves is important because it teaches the youth about the past as well as how people can use the past to develop a different future.
“It is interesting to know who was here,” Avila said.
The exhibit titled, “Tiny Art - Big Heart” will be available for viewers until Feb. 28. Pieces in this display are limited to being eight inches by 10 inches.
Admission to the Creative Arts Center in free. The gallery is located at 200 W. 5th Street in Bonham and is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. For more information, call 903-640-2196 or visit http://www.CreativeArtsCenterBonham.com or http://www.Facebook.com/CreativeArtsCenterBonham.