September 22, 2017
The vision for the Arts Block will move closer to reality this month with the beginning of construction for the first phase of the Green Line Arts Center and the opening of the Rain Garden as a new community space.
The University of Chicago announced in June 2016 that it would work with community partners to reactivate vacant spaces and establish a major arts and culture corridor along East Garfield Boulevard from South Prairie Avenue to South Martin Luther King Drive in Washington Park. The Arts Center, envisioned as an interdisciplinary hub at the forefront of visual, performing, and media arts for individual artists and cultural organizations, will be a key component of the Arts Block.
Construction of the Arts Center will occur in phases and is scheduled to begin by the end of September. The first phase will include the renovation of 6,600 square feet of vacant storefronts located at 323-329 E. Garfield Blvd., east of the historic Chicago Transit Authority Green Line station. The space, designed by local architect John Morris, will include a black box theater, rehearsal space, green room, dressing room and lobby for gathering and exhibition. Powers & Sons Construction is the general contractor.
On Tuesday, September 19, the Arts + Public Life initiative hosted an opening ceremony for the Rain Garden, a new green space located behind the Currency Exchange Café at 305 E. Garfield Boulevard. The Rain Garden, created with support from Southwest Airlines, the South East Chicago Commission, and the Searle Funds at the Chicago Community Trust, will allow for the expansion of arts programming at the Arts Incubator and provide a community space in Washington Park for local businesses and community organizations. The garden is complemented by the addition of furniture created by youth, ages 14-18, in our Design Apprenticeship Program.
“The Arts Block is contributing to culture on the South Side and in Washington Park, and we are just getting started,” said Theaster Gates, professor in the Department of Visual Arts and director of Arts + Public Life. “The Rain Garden and the Green Line Arts Center will provide new spaces where artists and community members can come together to experiment and engage with art and ultimately contribute to a more vibrant, culturally engaged community.”
The Arts Block builds on the success of the University’s community-focused Arts Incubator and Place Lab, and additional enterprises along the block including the Currency Exchange Café and BING Art Books. Other new Arts Block spaces that are expected to begin development in the coming year are the Arts Block Lawn and a welcome center inside the historic Green Line CTA station that will include space for community programming. The Office of Civic Engagement has been working in partnership with Arts + Public Life to lead efforts to collaborate with city officials and the local community to revive the block.
“Beginning with the opening of the Arts Incubator in 2013, I have been pleased to partner with the University of Chicago to bring new arts and culture activity to East Garfield Boulevard,” said 3rd Ward Ald. Pat Dowell. “The new community and retail spaces will bring new life to Washington Park and also benefit surrounding neighborhoods.”
The beginning of construction for the Green Line Arts Center is enabled by a recent challenge grant from the Efroymson Family Fund. The University continues to seek donor support for the next phase of the Green Line Arts Center and other projects on the Arts Block.
Assistant Director of Communications
Arts + Public Life