April 13, 2006
Vol. 25 No. 14

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    Creative partnership helps strengthen artistic presence on City’s South Side

    By Jennifer Carnig
    News Office

    An artist’s rendering of the new Hyde Park Art Center is shown above.

    As the Hyde Park Art Center moves from its cramped space in the Del Prado Apartment Building to its spacious new facility at 5020 S. Cornell Ave., the University is giving its neighbor an unprecedented housewarming gift: Although the University will continue to own the Cornell building, it has allowed the Art Center to pursue its own design and to occupy the building rent-free for 25 years.

    With every layer of concrete poured, every nail hammered and every light bulb wired, a new relationship is being built between the University and the surrounding community.

    “This move was made possible by an incredible partnership and is what I consider to be a model for how south side communities, government and the University can work together to make great things happen,” said Henry Webber, the University’s Vice President of Community and Government Affairs. “Driven by Chuck Thurow’s (HPAC’s long-time executive director) inspired leadership, this new world-class building and the programs it will make possible bring so much vitality and energy to our community and the city I’m thrilled to be part of this excitement.”

    Opened in 1939, the Hyde Park Art Center is one of the oldest arts organizations in Chicago. It is consistently celebrated locally for the art education opportunities it makes available to the community and internationally for its exhibitions, including most famously one of the first shows by the Chicago Imagists, a roster of well-known painters such as Roger Brown, Christina Ramberg and Jim Nutt.

    As it enters its next phase, the art center is once again attracting the city’s attention south of the Loop. With the move into the new building, the Hyde Park Art Center is trading in a 6,700-square-foot space for a massive two-story, 32,000-square-foot edifice, a University asset worth over $1 million.

    “This is beyond exciting,” said Allison Peters, director of exhibitions for the center, explaining that she will now have access to five galleries instead of one. “I can finally start thinking about what spaces the art will look best in instead of what art looks best in this space. It’s an amazing opportunity.”

    The new Hyde Park Art Center, designed by Chicago architect Doug Garofalo, opens its doors to the general community for the first time at 9 a.m., Saturday, April 29, when a weekend-long celebration called “Creative Move” kicks off. The art center will be open continuously for 36 hours, until 9 p.m. Sunday, April 30.

    The free opening weekend will include a chance to see Takeover, the center’s inaugural show composed of work by more than 40 different artists and collaborators, as well as listen to music, watch theater and dance performances, and even see the Chicago Storm demonstrate its soccer moves. Events geared toward families will take place during the day, and at night, bands will play and cocktails will be served for adults. There will also be a midnight ceramics class for those who want to try their hand at the creative arts.

    While this opening creates a new cultural destination on Chicago’s South Side and makes available great opportunities for art lovers in the city—more unique exhibitions to see, a wider variety of classes for children and adults to enjoy, and another place for people to hang out with the opening of a new coffee shop on the first floor—the new Hyde Park Art Center also means an enhanced art environment for members of the University community.

    The second floor of the new building includes seven studios for University artists — faculty in the Department of Visual Arts will use four studios, and visiting artists will utilize the remaining three. The large, bright studios are “a huge deal,” said Laura Letinsky, a noted photographer and Chair of Visual Arts.

    “These studios will facilitate our ability to attract and retain a strong faculty,” Letinsky said while touring the new facility to survey the four allotted studio spaces designated for Department of Visual Art’s faculty. “This is analogous to having a library for faculty in other departments. It’s basic. Given that we want active practicing artists, this is something we need. So this is a wonderful step forward.”

    The new space also will allow the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture, which hosts a visiting artist every school year, to offer studio space as part of its incentive package and therefore, for the first time, open up the program to artists outside Chicago.

    The two additional studios will become home to ArtsWork, a new joint program between the Division of the Humanities and the Hyde Park Art Center that will bring two visiting artists to the University for 10-month residencies. Slated to start in September 2007, the program will give the University and the art center the opportunity to attract artists from around the world to the South Side.

    ArtsWork signals another new collaboration between the University and the art center—the selection committee choosing the artists will include someone from the art center, as well as representatives from the Humanities, Art History, Visual Arts and the Smart Museum of Art. But perhaps most importantly, this new panel promotes cooperation among various constituencies inside the University, said David Thompson, Associate Dean of the Humanities.

    “One particularly interesting characteristic of the visiting artist program is that its mere existence as a program testifies to the strengthening of creative partnerships both within the University and beyond,” Thompson said.

    “The selection of these artists is carried out via a group conversation. Thus, the visiting artists arrive to find a receptive group of colleagues drawn from a range of endeavors a museum, a community art center, and several academic units. The possibilities for collaboration are exciting.”

    For more information about the Hyde Park Art Center, its opening weekend, its upcoming exhibitions or its classes, visit http://hydeparkart.org or call (773) 324-5520.