The South Chicago Art Center was founded in 2001 with these goals in mind: to provide a safe place for children after school; to bring arts education to local impoverished schools; to stimulate the imaginations of participants of all ages; to cultivate a sense of aesthetics; to boost self-esteem and intellectual curiosity; to decrease incidence of crime and substance abuse; and to promote friendship, solidarity and empowerment in the community.
Now in its ninth year of operation, the Art Center runs a five-day-a-week after-school visual arts program; an in-school program in local schools; and an urban farm where kids and other community members come together to create beauty by landscaping, planting and growing.
In the spring of 2003, the Art Center created a community garden on four city lots just north of the Center. The Artists’ Garden has been a catalyst for building community participation in civic affairs. It lies on a block that has only one house on it. To say it is blighted would be an understatement. It is also sandwiched between an African American Section 8 housing facility and a block of mostly Mexican immigrants. Over the last summer the garden attracted more than twenty-five community members, who received plots to grow produce or flowers. This summer, the Artists’ Garden received first place in Mayor Daley’s Landscape Awards (we had received third place the last two years).
Art Center classes visit the garden to watercolor, catch bugs, draw and sculpt. More important than the produce itself are the interactions and relationships forged between neighbors.