SOUTH SHORE — Wine and painting nights have become wildly popular in neighborhoods like Lincoln Park and Lakeview, but when Chicago Public School teacher Erica Ferguson set out to open her own on the South Side, she was met with skepticism.
She said storefront owners in Chatham and Woodlawn told her “arts don’t do well in African-American communities”.
It didn’t take long for Ferguson, a teacher at Mahalia Jackson Elementary School in Brainerd, to prove them wrong.
The idea for Pink Giraffe Art Studio, 2340 E. 75th St. in South Shore, came about two years ago when Ferguson and one of her coworkers wanted to host a relaxing event for their fellow teachers during spring break. They settled on a “paint and sip” night, where attendees sip wine while an instructor shows them how to paint a specific portrait.
The event was wildly successful, and the South Shore native set out on opening her own studio. She said the idea that art-based businesses won’t thrive in parts of the South Side was absurd.
“It’s about making art accessible,” Ferguson said. “[Art is] a part of who we are as human beings. Without art, life would be pretty bland.”
She recalled having to go outside of her community to attend her first paint and sip event and yoga class, both of which she now offers at Pink Giraffe Art Studio along with high-intensity training and African dance classes.
With a little help from a small business financial lender, Pink Giraffe Art Studio officially opened in August. The studio’s paint and sip events highlight African-American culture and icons like Beyonce, Tupac Shakur and Prince, among others.
Pink Giraffe Art Studio’s name was inspired by Ferguson’s desire to think outside the box, she said.
“It’s kind of an oxymoron because giraffes aren’t pink but I thought it was the perfect opportunity to represent the art studio,” she said.
Once she buys her own space, Ferguson aims to franchise Pink Giraffe. She sees a demand for people in other communities to have a similar creative outlet.
Art is life. Art is in everything around us,” she said.
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