The $1.85 million project, dubbed the Arts and Public Life Initiative, will turn a former liquor store on Garfield Boulevard into the Washington Park Arts Incubator. The two-story building will provide students from the surrounding neighborhoods with a space to develop skills in the visual and performing arts through interactions with existing U of C art programs.
Theaster Gates, the director of arts program development at the University and a lecturer in the Department of Visual Arts, will spearhead the program. The Office of Civic Engagement consulted frequently and early with Gates, who is known for projects that aim to revitalize the culture of parts of his native Chicago, according to Deputy Provost of the Arts Larry Norman.
“He has been thinking about the kinds of connections and innovative ways to engage the life of the university and community and vice-versa,” Norman said.
The University acquired the new space in 2008 with other properties along Garfield Boulevard. Discussion about the potential uses for that space began early in the 2010-2011 school year.
“When the opportunity to look at this space presented itself, following a series of conversations between the Initiative and the Office of Civic Engagement, I thought it was the perfect way to move forward to create some new programs,” Norman said.
The initiative hopes to use the arts as a means of improving relations between the South Side and the U of C, in addition to raising the level of K-12 arts education, according to a September 29 University press release.
“We look forward to partnering with students, colleagues across campus, and schools in the community to expand the opportunities for student engagement in arts education,” Bill Michel, Executive Director of the Reva and David Logan Center for Creative and Performing Arts, wrote in an e-mail.
The launch of the initiative has already caught the attention of students on campus.
Colin McReynolds, a first-year interested in studying theater, is particularly excited by the prospect of working with local performers and mentoring children on the South Side.
“I’m really excited to witness all that the new center will add to the University’s undergraduate theater and visual arts experience.”