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Austin, Garfield Park, North Lawndale

Chicago Children’s Choir Kicks Off Summer Of Music, Arts And Outdoor Dining In Austin

The kids' performance is part of a summer-long effort to use public art and performances to spur local tourism and boost businesses.

Students performing at a Chicago Children's Choir concert.
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AUSTIN — A children’s choir performed outside an Austin eatery this weekend to give the neighborhood a taste of the outdoor dining, music and arts that will be a mainstay over the summer.

The Chicago Children’s Choir performance was the first of many musical events planned for Chicago Avenue and Madison Street in Austin to make the area more welcoming to residents and tourists as part of the Chicago Alfresco program.

The Austin Chamber of Commerce is using its $120,000 grant from the program to boost neighborhood tourism with the help of local artists and musicians, including young people showcased in the Chicago Children’s Choir.

“We want to really stir up the buzz to get people ready,” said Tina Augustus, executive director for the Austin Chamber of Commerce. “I’m very excited. It’s going to really enhance curb appeal.”

The choir’s Austin-based group performed Saturday at MacArthur’s Restaurant, 5412 W. Madison Street, a neighborhood favorite for soul food along one of Austin’s busiest commercial corridors. Madison Street is home to many neighborhood businesses and restaurants, and the performances are geared toward attracting foot traffic that will benefit the area.

The performances organized for the initiative are also an excellent opportunity to showcase local talent, said Mark Myer, the associate artistic director for the Chicago Children’s Choir.

“The singers of the Austin Neighborhood Choir are excited to share their first public performance in over a year,” Myer said.

The outdoor area at the restaurant will continue to host musical performances and other events, including spoken word poetry, dance groups and jazz concerts, manager Sharon McKinney said.

“It will showcase the talent that our young people have, which will assist in our customers enjoying the relaxed atmosphere that this will bring to the restaurant,” McKinney said.

Similar performances and art events are also planned for Soul City Corridor, a stretch of Chicago Avenue in Austin. Four restaurants along Soul City Corridor will anchor the program in that part of the neighborhood, Augustus said.

The participating Chicago Avenue restaurants will be L&E Vienna, Bitoy’s Bistro, Batter & Berries, and Coleman’s BBQ2.

The city program also will help beautify Madison Street and Chicago Avenue with dozens of 5-foot-long planters. Austin-based artist Antonia Ruppert is designing and painting the planters so the neighborhood will have more greenery and public art that reflects the lives of residents.

The Austin Chamber of Commerce is recruiting volunteers to install the planters and set up outdoor dining at the restaurants. Those interested in volunteering can reach Augustus at

“We’re going to need volunteers to help us plant the flowers. We’ll need some muscle, moving the soil, moving the planters, helping us set up the restaurant partitions,” Augustus said.

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