CHICAGO (WLS) -- After nearly 40 years of not having a venue to call their own, the American Blues Theater Company officially opened its permanent home on the North Side.
"It's a dream come true. It means everything to us," said Executive Artistic Director Wendy Whiteside. "It means the world to artists and also our staff, just having the stability to be able to perform our art."
The theater company's new nearly-18,000 square foot home at the corner of Talman and Lincoln avenues sits where an old Walgreens and Dollar Store used to be. The space has a 137-seat main stage with a lobby and bar, dressing rooms and wardrobe area, and an office and storage. There is also a 50-seat studio and a small parking lot.
"It's going to enhance our continued efforts at connecting art and service," said Board Treasurer Michael Levinson.
The new $7.8 million building was purchased and converted with $2.5 million from the city of Chicago TIF funds. Theater officials said the rest of the funding came from private donations and the company's own money.
Alderman Andre Vasquez, who represents the 40th Ward, said the theater helps create a Lincoln Avenue North Arts District, and more.
"We look forward to people who want to set up shop, who want to move here and build more affordable housing as well," Ald. Vasquez said.
Mayor Brandon Johnson praise the project, which was supported by the previous mayoral administration.
The theater will open its doors to audiences on December 8, with the staple seasonal offering of "It's a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago," their adaptation of the Frank Capra movie with a Windy City twist.
"Putting up this show for this community feels so appropriate to celebrate just who we are as people in Chicago," said Editha Rosario-Moore, ensemble alumna.
Founded in 1985, the American Blues Theater said it tells the stories of working people and the American identity. It hasn't had a permanent home since 2009, following some internal issues. But that is no longer a concern for those in the organization, who say ABT proves theater can be for everyone.