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Bronzeville, Near South Side

For 80 Years, The South Side Community Art Center Has Been A Hub For Black Art In Chicago. Now, It Needs Your Help

With a goal of $10,000, the Chicago Printers Guild's Raise It Up fundraiser will help the 80-year-old Black art center in Bronzeville pay for improvements to its main floor gallery.

Artist Faheem Majeed works on a massive graphite rubbing of the South Side Community Art Center's facade in August. Majeed is a former executive director of the center and will open an exhibition there in January.
Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago
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BRONZEVILLE — A new fundraising campaign to support renovations to the South Side Community Art Center will also raise awareness about the role of Bronzeville’s venerable Black art institution in Chicago’s creative community.

The Raise It Up campaign, which was organized by the Chicago Printers Guild and kicked off Monday, has a goal of $10,000 to support improvements to the art center’s Margaret Burroughs gallery on the main floor.

With the funds, the center will update light fixtures, renovate the ceiling and perform other tasks “to keep the center’s charm of 80 years, while at the same time … doing what we can do to maintain, enhance and celebrate the center,” Executive Director Monique Brinkman-Hill said.

If the fundraiser exceeds its goal, the funds will be used as needed to support the center’s operation, as the coronavirus pandemic has impacted many of its regular funding sources.

“With a 100-year-old building and an 80-year-old organization, there’s always something that needs to be done,” Brinkman-Hill said.

Burroughs, a legendary visual artist and educator, co-founded the center. It opened in 1941 and is the only Works Progress Administration art center still in existence.

One of the hallmarks of the Burroughs gallery is its wood-paneled perimeter, which bears thousands of holes marking the placements of artworks over the center’s eight decades of operation.

“There’s something incredibly impactful about seeing 80 years worth of holes from the art there … giving real context for [the center’s] place in history,” said Alexandra Blom, executive director of the Chicago Printers Guild.

Credit: Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago
A small section of the wood paneling inside the South Side Community Art Center features dozens of holes where pieces of art have hung over the years.

Despite that storied past, many printers guild members — even those who attended art school in Chicago — were unaware of the center, Blom said. Part of the fundraiser’s intent is to raise awareness of the center’s work among guild members and in the citywide art scene.

“There’s such a rich history there that we feel should be ubiquitous, not only as a Chicago institution but as an institution that has impact on the greater community,” Blom said.

Guild Vice President Raeleen Kao connected with the art center’s leadership through her coworker, mixed media artist Marcus Alleyne.

Alleyne had “really positive things to say” about the center’s existing work — and, more importantly, its potential for growth if it could secure more money and attention.

Fundraising for the center seemed like a perfect outlet for the guild, which has been looking to expand its reach beyond the North Side and figure out ways to substantially support Black artists, Kao said.

The fundraiser will give the center “something that they’re going to be able to use for a long time [by] putting money into the building,” Kao said. The process was as simple as “asking Monique, ‘What do you want and what do you need?'”

In addition to investing funds in the center, the guild wants to invest its cultural capital in the surrounding neighborhood, Kao said.

Guild members want to pursue educational partnerships with the center and have its members perform demonstrations and classes on-site in the future, Kao said.

The South Side Community Art Center, pictured in 2018.

Upcoming Exhibitions And Ways To Support The Center

The South Side Community Art Center‘s newest exhibition, The Spirit of Community, is Chicago artist Jesse Howard’s first solo show at the center.

The two-floor exhibition showcases Howard as he “uses charcoal to capture the essence of individuals in these big, vibrant portraits,” Brinkman-Hill said.

The exhibition opens Saturday and runs through Dec. 19. Half-hour reservations for groups of one to six people can be made for free through Eventbrite. Masks, hand hygiene and social distancing are required.

The center will also roll out a redesigned website in December.

Faheem Majeed, who earlier this year began work on a graphite rubbing of the center’s facade, will debut a virtual show in January showcasing works from his time as the center’s executive director.

To support the fundraiser, members of the Chicago Printers Guild will sell art from the following partnerships. For each partnership, guild members’ names and printing presses are followed by the local artist they partnered with:

Each partnership received a financial award to execute their project, and the resulting work will be sold beginning Dec. 5 through the Chicago Printers Guild website. All proceeds will support the South Side Community Art Center.

Click here to donate to the Raise It Up fundraiser through GoFundMe.

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