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Duke Ellington Statue Graces Soon-To-Reopen Howard Theatre

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A new statue of Duke Ellington gleams in front of Howard Theater, which is scheduled to reopen April 9.
Armando Trull
A new statue of Duke Ellington gleams in front of Howard Theater, which is scheduled to reopen April 9.

A gleaming new statue of legendary musician Duke Ellington has been erected outside the iconic Howard Theatre. The statue is one of the final finishing touches to the theater, which is set to reopen next month, after being closed for 20 years.

Howard Theatre, located at 620 T Street, NW, launched the careers of some of the biggest African American stars in the last century, including Duke Ellington's. The statue depicts the musician seated at a treble clef, surrounded by a swirling keyboard. Ella Fitzgerald and Marvin Gaye also got their start at the landmark theater.

"It actually had to embody I think the classic history of public art in the city but this is about a project about the renewal of this community," says Zachary Oxman, the sculptor who won a competition with his design. "A community that was so rich with talent. Duke Ellington became an icon not just of this community but of this city."

One walking into the lobby of the Howard Theater may find it hard to believe it was built in 1910. The renovation is spectacular and modern. The floor and walls are covered in cream-colored marble and honey-colored wood. There's a lot of gleaming glass and chrome and steel. The main stage is flanked by two flat screen monitors and the seating brown and green leather.

Even today, workers are putting the finishing touches on it before the ribbon-cutting ceremony scheduled for April 9. It will reopen to the public on April 12.

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