Bolstering the Arts on Chicago's South Side

Art on Chicago’s South Side has always taken a backseat to crime, violence, and poverty. But in 2012, the South Side Community Art Center received a $5,000 award from the Illinois Humanities Council to help move the community in a more positive direction.

The Illinois Humanities Council (IHC) supports programs that promote an understanding and appreciation of creative expression and the arts across a diversity of cultures. Organized in 1973, the IHC funds humanities activities throughout the state of Illinois including library seminars, performances, exhibitions, and films. The IHC serves as a catalyst in imaginative ventures which bring scholarship into the public forum. Twice a year, the IHC also conducts humanities and grant resource workshops throughout the state of Illinois.

In 2011, the IHC awarded nearly $30,000 in grants to eight distinct local non-profit organizations. These organizations include jazz, archeology, railroad, and Lithuanian culture museums.

With a continued focus on African American visual art, writing, music, and drama, the South Side Community Art Center has been housing various exhibitions, classes, and concerts since 1940. This particular $5,000 IHC grant went to the center's Art of Community Speaks Across Generations program. This program featured five intergenerational historical interviews, using the center's collection to inspire community discussion.

The center's relevance is well stated in Diane Gram and Michael Warr's article about how small art centers benefit neighborhoods. The article acknowledges that "few African Americans have access to cultural institutions in Chicago. Their knowledge of art is from art fairs, little galleries, home art sales, what they see in stores, and word of mouth. We provide a venue where they can see professionally presented exhibitions of both accomplished and emerging Black artists."

Cultural organizations like this one continue to thrive and provide alternatives for members of the struggling communities of Chicago's south side. South Side Community's Art Center is incredibly small, so without the help of the IFC this positive alternative would likely not be available for future generations to find hope in.