DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – A street in downtown Dayton will soon get a new name that honors the city’s rich music history.
Stone Street, which is located just behind The Neon theater, will soon be designated “Land of Funk Way.”
Sharon Gratto, a professor of music at the University of Dayton, put in the request for the designation.
“Dayton is known as the funk capital of the world because lots of local groups began following James Brown in Detroit in the early 70s running into the 80s,” she said. “They organized in Dayton. A lot of them organized in high school at a time when instrumental music was very strong in the Dayton Public Schools,” she said.
Morris Howard, the Dayton native who painted the mural in honor of Dayton funk bands, got the idea in 2016 after moving back from out of town to take care of his mother. He said he was inspired by the profound effect the the genre had on the city when he was growing up.
“So many different funk bands came out of Dayton and they all sound different,” he said. “You can distinguish between all the groups, you know? So you know when you hear the Ohio Players…you hear the horns. You know when you hear Heatwave, you get — to me — Eurocentric type funk. And then, Slave which will seem…a little grittier.”
To keep with the theme of community, Howard invited area youth to help him with the project.
“He enlisted the assistance of a lot of children at risk, who came from the HAALO Project in Dayton and [they] helped him paint the murals,” said Gratto. “It is beautiful work. It is significant work, and it was time to be recognized and honored.”
However, Howard said for him the mural was a labor of love.
“For me personally, it was something to give back to [Dayton funk artists] because a lot of them didn’t get the recognition that I felt like they deserved,” he said. “And I wanted to honor them in my own way. And it came out to be such a successful venture that every now and then I check Instagram and check just to look up the funk mural and, you know, I see people from all over. They come by here and people have done their wedding parties here and all sorts of things. So people are really, really feeling it and that’s what it’s all about.”
Gratto said the masterpiece will act as the visual component of the honorary street designation, which passed through the Dayton City Commission, and was finished just in time for this year’s Funk Symposium.
“The symposium opens on November 3 with a showing of Summer of Soul at The Neon theater, so there’s a great opportunity to be there and see some of the other history leading up to the funk movement,” said Gratto.
The formal unveiling of the mural is Thursday, October 14 at 4 p.m. To learn more about the Funk Symposium, click here.