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Jefferson Park, Portage Park, Norwood Park

Jefferson Park’s Ed Paschke Art Center Wins Approval To Renovate Gallery With Planned Opening In Summer 2024

Renovation work on the art center could start at the tail end of summer, and a nearby sculpture garden is being unveiled next month.

The Ed Paschke Art Center at 5415 W. Higgins Ave. has been closed since 2020.
Ariel Parrella-Aureli/Block Club Chicago
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JEFFERSON PARK — A highly anticipated expansion of the Ed Paschke Art Center in Jefferson Park — and the reopening of the museum that’s been closed since 2020 — took a big step forward Wednesday.

The City Council signed off on a zoning change that will allow for the expansion of the art center at 5415 W. Higgins Ave. The change allows for the building’s height to increase, clearing the way for a new 2,800-square-foot exhibit space. Renovations will include a new gallery, more artist showcases, offices and a larger educational area, co-founder Lionel Rabb said.

The additions will bring the building to 11,819 square feet. It will have no parking because of its proximity to the Jefferson Park transit center, according to the zoning application.

Although the project has been delayed due to the pandemic and City Council deferrals, Rabb can now apply for building permits, which could get approved next month, he said.

“Hopefully, by this August, we can put a shovel in the ground,” Rabb said. “We’re moving forward.”

Rabb hoped to reopen the center this summer after closing it during the pandemic in 2020, but the project has moved slower than expected, he said. The center, which started in 2014 and is dedicated to acclaimed Chicago artist Ed Paschke, is now set to reopen June 22, 2024: Paschke’s birthday.

The Ed Paschke Art Center embodies Paschke’s role as an artist, teacher and mentor through a gallery exhibiting local talent and an artist residency program. The center’s educational resources for youth, adults, artists and academics have removed barriers to the art world and given artists platforms to showcase their work, its leaders say.

The renovations are part of a long-planned Northside Cultural District coming to Jefferson Park’s downtown area.

The goal of the cultural district is to create a unifying vision for advancing arts, culture and access as “vital contributors to our community and economy,” its founders wrote in announcing the project last year.

The district will bring together The Chicago Art Center, The Ed Paschke Art Center and the National Veterans Art Museum, co-located in a modern 35,000-square-foot cultural center under a “single-campus concept,” according to project designers John Ronan Architects.

A 2021 proposal for the Chicago Art Center was going to have both museums on the same lot, but plans have changed, Rabb said.

The veteran museum, located at Six Corners in the Portage loft building at 4041 N. Milwaukee Ave., plans to take over the building next to the art center at 5411 W. Higgins Ave., which used to be a podiatrist office. Plans for the museum expansion include building on top and adding a rear addition, said Rabb, who is also the chairman of the museum.

That project still needs community approval before leaders apply for a zoning change. A community meeting hosted by Ald. Jim Gardiner (45th) could happen next month “so we can move forward on the veteran museum,” Rabb said.

Rabb hopes the newly remodeled museum can open for Veterans Day in November 2024.

Credit: Ariel Parrella-Aureli/Block Club Chicago
The Ed Paschke Art Center at 5415 W. Higgins Ave. honors the work of the acclaimed artist, teacher, educator and family man who was known for his embellished and highlight decorated work.

In the meantime, a sculpture garden that’s also part of the arts district is close to completion. The garden will be right behind the The Ed Paschke Art Center at 5374 W. Lawrence Ave. and is set to be completed in a few weeks, Rabb said.

To get the community excited about the arts district project, Rabb and his partner and center co-founder, Vesna Stelcer, are bringing back the museum’s Paschke in the Park event. It’s noon June 11 at the corner of West Lawrence and North Long avenues.

The event will celebrate what would have been the artist’s 84th birthday, and leaders will share updates to the renovation project and unveil the sculpture garden, Rabb said. The kid-friendly event will also have art stations, a bouncy house, games and more. RSVPs are encouraged.

Another three-story arts building next to the garden is also planned for 5374 W. Lawrence Ave., where a house was demolished in 2019 for a nine-flat apartment proposal that never materialized.

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