Editor’s note: Watch for videos of Pierre, a multi-instrumental musician; drummer and bandleader Ramone Malone; and spoken-word artist Bobby Drake, performing at the Black Arts Festival.
Mary Davis, a Milwaukee jazz and blues keyboardist and singer who has been performing for more than 50 years, will be one of the featured artists at the inaugural Black Arts Festival at the Wisconsin African American Women’s Center. Mary Davis & Company will perform Saturday, Feb. 18.
The three-day festival, sponsored by the Wisconsin Black Chamber of Commerce, will include live performances from spoken-word artists, dancers and musicians, as well as vendor displays and interactive activities.
“Mary Davis is a legend in Milwaukee,” said Linda Cooper, marketing and sales coordinator of the Black Arts Festival. Cooper said she first saw Davis perform at The Main Event on 3rd and Atkinson in the 1970s. “I was in my early 20s and Mary was already a showstopper, playing at many of the extravagant matinees we had back in the day.”
Davis has performed not only in Milwaukee but across the country. Church music was her foundation, before she moved on to blues and jazz.
“Mary Davis was born in Memphis, Tennessee, and at the age of 10 she was playing the piano,” said Cooper. A church quartet asked her mother if Davis could join them for a performance at the church, which became her first paid gig. Her family moved to Milwaukee in May 1959.
The Black Arts Festival runs through Sunday, Feb. 19.