South Side Community Arts Center showcases Chicago's black artists

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The South Side Community Arts Center has provided a showplace for local black artists for 75 years. (WLS)

The South Side Community Arts Center is often called one of Chicago's best kept secrets, and it has provided a showplace for local black artists for 75 years.

For a very long time, it was simply the place to experience art created by African-Americans. From the beginning, the South Side Community Arts Center was a source of inspiration for artists and art-lovers alike. Now the iconic facility has received an infusion of capital and it could not have come at a better time.

It's been a Bronzeville institution since 1940. The South Side Community Arts Center has long been a haven for Chicago artists of color.

"The South Side Community Arts Center was founded because there was no place for African-Americans to display their art, no galleries whatsoever," said Dr. Masequa Myers, executive director at SSCAC.

It dates back to the Franklin Roosevelt era, and in fact, Eleanor attended the dedication. Now they are celebrating a $300,000 grant announced just this week from the Alphawood foundation to help continue its mission.

"Artists are our story-tellers and it's very important that we tell our stories," Dr. Myers said.

The story being told during this Black History Month is called "Bridging Generations: Strong Men Getting Stronger" featuring the works of three black male artists from Baby Boomer to Millenial.

"It is a time when there is so much turmoil and there is so much negativity being said about our young people, about how adults don't know how to communicate with the young, the young don't respect the old, so in bringing this exhibition together, I'm speaking to the fact that it is possible, it is happening and we need to highlight that," Dr. Myers said.

Oscar Lester - better known as "Triple Blak" - is one of the artists being featured and he is elated.

"Because there's usually not that much celebration in the information we hear about the brothers (laughs), or not much cause for celebration," he said.

Lester says this uplifting exhibition can serve an even bigger purpose.

"Anything that brings people out of their house to commune with their neighbors and socialize with their friends and their peers and enjoy something culturally enriching, I'm behind it," Lester said.

The art center also teaches classes to people in the community that, they hope, will have a long-term benefit.

"If they have access to take up their time in this way, then there is no time to have a weapon in their hands. So instead of a weapon, let's have a paintbrush and let's express ourselves in a constructive way," Dr. Myers said.

The South Side Community Arts Center is hoping to use that grant money to hire staff over the next three years and make improvements to the building, which was constructed back in 1892. The current exhibition featuring black male artists runs through April.

Related Topics:
entertainmentartblack history monthblack historyChicago - Bronzeville
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