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Bronzeville, Near South Side

Bronzeville’s Lillian Marcie Center, A 350-Seat Theater In The Works, Gets $26 Million In State Funding

The grant will bring actor Harry Lennix one step closer to realizing his vision of a "Black Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts."

A warehouse building at 4341 S. Cottage Grove Ave., pictured on Jan. 4, 2021, is slated to become the Lillian Marcie Center for the Performing Arts.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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GRAND BOULEVARD — A much-anticipated addition to Bronzeville’s cultural corridor will receive $26 million since the 2023 state budget has been signed into law.

The Lillian Marcie Center for the Performing Arts, 4343 S. Cottage Grove Ave., will be on the site of an old Marshall Field warehouse built in 1915. The 22,500-square-foot, two-story space is the centerpiece of a larger initiative that includes plans for a Black performing arts museum, studio space, a restaurant and jazz club.

Construction of the center is estimated to cost $25 million. The state is providing funding via a grant from the Build Illinois Bond Fund.

The center is planned to have a 350-seat, multi-level auditorium and a 100-seat space for more intimate performances, along with rehearsal space, dressing rooms and offices. An outdoor gathering area would offer neighbors space to meet.

Local developer Keith Giles and investor Mike Wordlaw will oversee construction, working with Bronzeville native and actor Harry Lennix to bring his vision of a “Black Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts” to life.

The center will complement other efforts to revitalize the 43rd Street corridor, including 4400 Grove — a mixed-use development now home to Bronzeville Winery — and restoration of The Forum, which owner Bernard Loyd hopes to transform into a cultural destination.

Credit: Provided.
A rendering of the Lillian Marcie Center for Performing Arts.

The center is a love letter to Bronzeville, he said, and a way of honoring two important women in Lennix’s life: his mother, Lillian; and Marcella “Marcie” Gillie, the high school principal whose mentorship made his transition to Hollywood a little easier.

Lennix said he’s grateful for the support from public officials, including Rep. Kam Buckner and Ald. Sophia King (4th), who championed the project.

“Where government has fallen short, and where the church has failed, that’s where culture can come in. I believe it’s an excellent third way, but we need both the church and the state in order to support the culture. I’m especially grateful to all of those who agreed with that sentiment,” Lennix said.

Lennix recently treated South Side students to an Alvin Ailey performance at Auditorium Theatre. The center is another way of carrying on the work, Lennix said.

TaRon Patton, currently a Congo Square Theatre ensemble member and former executive director, will take on leadership duties at the Lillian Marcie Center.

A groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for September.

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