After a 16-year hiatus, HotHouse is making a comeback, with plans to set up shop in Bronzeville. Credit: Jamie Nesbitt Golden/Block Club Chicago

GRAND BOULEVARD — Sixteen years after closing its Balbo Street location, beloved cultural venue HotHouse is making a comeback with a crowdsourcing campaign to support its move to Bronzeville.

The team behind the revival plans to buy the Donnelly Chicago Youth Center, 3947-3953 S. Michigan Ave. The 24,000-square-foot building will be transformed into a “multipurpose facility” that would house arts programs and social justice projects.

People can donate online to the effort.

There would be a performing arts space, black box theater, restaurant, grassroots community meeting space, and short term residences, along with a yard featuring murals and sculptures. The new location will be close to the Bronzeville Trail, a public greenspace project launched earlier this year.

The team is looking to raise $250,000 to help with the hiring of a capital campaign director and real estate planner, and for a down payment on the building. They’ve raised $3,548 so far, with a goal of reaching $20,000 by Nov. 15.

Formally known as The Center for International Performance and Exhibition, HotHouse was founded in 1987 in Wicker Park by Marguerite Horberg, an artist and activist with a reputation for curating shows and exhibits with global impact. Horberg was recently recognized a 2021 Jazz Hero by the Jazz Journalists Association.

YouTube video
The Hothouse team released a You Tube video last week announcing the venue’s move to Bronzeville.

Horberg told the Chicago Reader in 1993 that HotHouse was “interested in bolstering and supporting people who have a progressive point of view, whether it’s music or artwork or nonverbal communication–challenging an overarching concept of culture.”

“It’s a progressive cultural agenda,” Horberg said.

The venue moved to the South Loop in 1995 with help from the MacArthur Foundation, hosting world-renowned artists, from Gil Scott-Heron to Olu Dara. HotHouse hosted more than 500 multi-arts programs that attracted 70,000 people, eventually evolving into a $2 million organization with 45 employees, according to its website.

HotHouse closed in 2007 after settling a lawsuit with its landlord over property taxes.

“After we were locked out of Balbo, we knew the community wanted to see us rebuild. Not a week has gone by that someone doesn’t tell us how much they miss HotHouse,” Horberg said in a press release. “We have been steadfastly pursuing something more secure and permanent for more than a decade and have been so fortunate to have so many people who have been part of this ongoing resurrection since day one.”

Organizers are hoping to launch some programs in 2023 with plans to be fully operations in five years, Horberg said.

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