U of C's Art Incubator improving S. Side relations

September 7, 2013 9:44:27 PM PDT
The University of Chicago is looking to use art as a way to improve relations with its South Side neighbors.

Some local artists now have a new place to call home. The University of Chicago Arts Incubator is supporting five artists-in-residence. All are Chicagoans with a shared vision to use the Washington Park neighborhood as their inspiration. Cecil McDonald Jr. is snapping intriguing photos of residents in their homes.

"I'm interested in how we live in these private spaces and kind of bring them out in the public," McDonald Jr. said.

Avery Young likes to play with the words he often hears.

"The aint's, the can't, I'm finna go, the fixin', ooh wee them collard greens, and trying to figure out how that looks, how do we shape and re-imagine that language. I think it's beautiful," Young said.

From musical art to construction design, the goal is to engage residents of both Hyde Park and Washington Park to help bridge the historic gap between the two communities.

Cauleen Smith is using tactile artistry to connect the neighborhoods. She plans to hang disco balls in trees throughout Washington Park, lighting a walking path between the incubator and the university.

"It's really, really palpable the way in which the divide between Hyde Park and Washington Park and it's not just the physical space of the park," she said. "It's a mental, social, economic, psychological, cultural divide. It's perfectly alright to move from one place to another."

The Arts Incubator is the brainchild of Theaster Gates. He hopes it will not only improve the relationship between the two communities, but also spur growth and development to enhance Washington Park.

"Because of how tremendously important this is that the University is a partner in Washington Park, it was really important that with the finite resources, the finite space that we tried to do things that had clear and measurable outcomes," Gates said. "We're thinking in new and bigger ways about Garfield Boulevard."

The Arts Incubator also hosts a design apprenticeship program for neighborhood high school students and hosts a number of free entertainment options including a weekly live jazz series.

For more information: University of Chicago Arts Incubator


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