7 In Your Neighborhood: Boocoo Cultural Center

February 13, 2012 11:29:34 AM PST
Aspiring singers, budding dancers and wannabe rock stars may think they have few outlets to nurture their talents without a celebrity budget. But the Boocoo Cultural Center and Café in Evanston can fit the bill.

The center is on the corner of Dodge and Church.

"Boocoo is a derivation of the French word 'beaucoup,' which means a lot or plenty and in the Creole parts in the South, they pronounce beaucoux, 'boocoo,'" said administrator Alicia Hempfling.

And "plenty" is what you get at Boocoo. With a mission of "cultivating creativity," it's a place that celebrates the performing arts. Guitar, drum and piano lessons are just a few of the offerings.

"I've been coming here for about a year and a half," said aspiring musician Shai Markovich. "Twice a week, I'm here. On Monday, a good three or four hours here."

Devin Patterson, 19, is a recent graduate. It was the state-of-the-art recording studio, which charged only a small fee, that drew him in four years ago.

"It was just a good outlet for me to, like, express myself and to get my ideas professionally done," Patterson said. "Not everybody gets that opportunity."

It's not only the younger crowd that benefit from the creative outlet. Eric Delgado, 37, has been break dancing for three decades and now gets to teach the the foundations of hip hop to a new generation.

"I am fortunate to be a part of Boocoo and the mission statement: cultivating creativity," Delgado said. "I'm 100 percent down for what they do here. Not just the hip hop program, but the music lessons, the drum lessons, you know. Everything is just perfect here for youth to come here and try to make something of themselves through arts.

For those whose self-expression takes a quieter approach, volunteers recently built a hoop house behind the center to shelter an organic garden.The center hopes to create a full curriculum to teach children and adults about urban farming.

"One of the reasons that we're here is to give people the opportunity to get involved with things that they otherwise would not have an opportunity to do, which means making it affordable as well as fun, interesting and exciting," Hempfling said.

Boocoo is a non-profit organization and recently came close to shutting down. Students at Evanston Township High School held a very creative fundraiser to help out.

Administrators allowed them to blast a Justin Beiber song over the public address system at every break until their classmates donated $1,000. It only took a few days for students to kick in enough cash to make it stop.

For more information, visit www.boocoo.org