Both sides now

There’s a double feature at the Matheson Museum. And they are both soooo GNV.

Listen, in my last blog I told you all about the new exhibit at the Matheson Museum. “Return To Forever” is a visually stunning history of the four brief years in the mid-to-late 1970s when the Great Southern Music Hall was Ground Zero in Gainesville’s vibrant music scene.

John Moran was a rock n roll photographer before he turned his talents to nature.

The exhibit is based on the photos of John Moran, my old friend and colleague (we started at the Independent Florida Alligator together back when at least one of us were kids). John was just 19 when he fast-talked his way into a job as house photographer at the Great Southern. He had the opportunity to shoot some of the greats of rock history.

I only bring this up again to urge you to be sure to check out the exhibit right next door after you look over Moran’s stuff.

It wasn’t all fun and games at the University of Florida in the ‘70s.

“We’re Tired Of Asking: Black Thursday and Civil Rights at the University of Florida” is a compelling look at the events that unfolded at UF – which quickly spilled into the streets of GNV – after the university admitted its first Black students. (Check out my blog from last February for more details.)

There are heroes and villains in this exhibit, and President Stephen C. O’Connell was definitely one of the latter.

It turned out that UF’s first desegregated student body had no patience for still more segregation.

You may think that there is little connection between the struggle for social justice and a city’s celebration of music. But during the ‘70s, the two movements were indistinguishable.

Something happened here. What it was was definitely clear.

The same young people who defied UF authority and tear gas on the streets…

John got this shot while laying flat on his belly in the slip-n-slide runoff.

….were just as likely to flock to the next free concert on the campus lawn. Because what’s the point of great music if you don’t have social justice?

Seriously guys?

And listen, there’s no question that UF was way past due for a culture change. O’Connell could have been a champion for change if he hadn’t been so hidebound.

Minnie Riperton lived in GNV and performed at the Great Southern.

So yeah, let’s all celebrate great GNV music.

We’re not gonna’ take it.

But don’t overlook the winds of change that shook UF and GNV out of stasis and helped turn a sleepy college town into the vibrant university city it is today.

These two exhibits say a lot about who we were, what we did, and how we came together to make GNV a better city. Don’t miss either one.

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