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Bronzeville, Near South Side

Little Black Pearl Will Open A Coworking Lounge, Launch Workshops For Adult Creatives This Month

The C47 Work and Experiment Lounge offers in-person workforce development for artists, which is needed "after we’ve all been home for a year and a half," founder Monica Haslip said.

Little Black Pearl's C47 Work and Experiment Lounge is in its soft opening stage, with a grand opening expected by the end of the month. Workshops for artists on the creative and business sides of their industry will be rolled out in November.
Armand Morris
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KENWOOD — A South Side “cultural treasure” that’s spent nearly three decades working with young creatives of color is expanding its Kenwood location with more adult programs.

Little Black Pearl, 1060 E. 47th St., will open a co-working lounge for creatives by the end of October and roll out workshops in the weeks to follow, founder Monica Haslip said.

The lounge is in its “soft launch stage” for the next two weeks, and visitors can explore the space and offer feedback on the programs they’d like to see hosted there, Haslip said.

Once the lounge is fully operational, Haslip plans to host painting, drawing, ceramics and pottery workshops, as well as sessions on financing, marketing and other business aspects of the creative industry.

“This lounge will largely serve the adult community,” Haslip said. “It’s an invitation for people to regain access to our facility, to continue to develop their skills and to focus on preparation for getting back into the workforce after we’ve all been home for a year and a half.”

Monthly memberships start at $50 for eight visits to the lounge, which includes wifi, working space and FedEx or UPS services.

Memberships cost up to $200 per month, which includes unlimited lounge access, eight sessions in Little Black Pearl’s pottery or painting studio, a free workshop and access to large-scale printing.

Members and guests must be vaccinated against coronavirus.

Construction of the co-working space at Little Black Pearl’s headquarters was supported by a $575,000 grant from the nonprofit IFF and its Chicago’s Cultural Treasures initiative.

The funds support groups that create, preserve and share art from Black, Indigenous and other non-white cultures and traditions.

Other recipients include the DuSable Museum of African American History, Red Clay Dance Company, the South Shore Drill Team, the South Side Community Art Center and the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.

With its Carver 47 café and community market, summer camp, after-school sessions and other programs, Little Black Pearl is “always trying to create opportunities to expand the narrative about African-American icons and folk who have contributed to this country,” Haslip said.

Haslip, who founded Little Black Pearl in 1994, also received a $50,000 Leaders for a New Chicago award from the Field Foundation and MacArthur Foundation in June.

That award — given to residents combating systemic racism, discrimination and disinvestment in marginalized areas — is split between unrestricted cash for Haslip and operating funds for her organization.

Credit: Armand Morris
Little Black Pearl founder Monica Haslip plays pool at the center’s coworking lounge.

As the coworking lounge opens at Little Black Pearl, its onsite Art & Design Academy high school will wrap up its second month of classes.

The school year has been “beautiful,” as educators can once again engage with students in person, Haslip said. But it’s been “a challenging time, too,” as coronavirus precautions “are sort of in opposition” to how youth typically socialize, she said.

Students “have been trying to adjust and find new ways to connect socially — that’s a big part of high school,” Haslip said. “The academic part is really important, but they also love and need the social connections. We’re finding ways to do that.”

Little Black Pearl’s numerous programs aim to stabilize a community in flux, Haslip said. Nearby Bronzeville is seeing growth — driven in part by middle-class Black families — after years of divestment from the neighborhood.

Amid those changes, the center provides longtime residents with a place to gather and learn, and new faces with “a place where they can understand where they are,” Haslip said.

“This place is filled with history and tremendous cultural value,” Haslip said. “The contributions that Black people have made to this community, and the surrounding neighborhoods in particular, are huge.”

Chicago’s former Black Belt “is not being created,” she said. “This place already has value.”

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