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The flagship project of the Arts and Public Life Initiative at the University of Chicago will be the Washington Park Arts Incubator—a new mixed-use arts facility located just west of Washington Park slated to open later this year.  Inspired by Theaster Gates’ innovative work with the Rebuild Foundation and Dorchester Project, the University has appointed Gates to spearhead the creative redevelopment of the Washington Park property as a creative facility that will engage local artists, students, and residents in creating a nexus for cultural and community engagement.

ArtPlace recently spoke with Emily Hooper Lansana, Community Partnerships Manager for the Arts + Public Life Initiative.

ARTPLACE:  Who outside your organization has been key to your ability to move your initiative forward?

EMILY:  From the beginning of our efforts to establish the Incubator as an innovative space for creativity in Washington Park, we’ve connected with civic and community leaders to assure that our process is in concert with other local initiatives. We have worked with Alderman Pat Dowell and her team, Alderman Willie B. Cochran and his team, Executive Director of the Washington Park Consortium, Brandon Johnson and others to facilitate conversation around the process and plans for the roll-out of the Incubator and its programs.

In the initial phase two of our most important assets have been Washington Park residents, Billy Smith and Harold Brown who are part of the construction team. Their excitement about the site and the impact it will have on the community is infectious. As neighbors with an inside view, they have been able to spread the word to local residents.

ARTPLACE:  Are there secrets to good partnerships?

EMILY:  Good partnerships- we are still learning. Communicating early and often is one of the lessons of this moment. Learning that if culture is going to work, someone must be actively communicating our values and making those values accessible. This past Sunday, October 14th gave us the opportunity to preview the space to some key partners and local residents. On a rainy afternoon, we opened the doors and several friends and neighbors came in for cider, donuts and hard-hat tours. We provided a behind the scenes look at how the space is being transformed. It was exciting to receive feedback from others about the ways they imagine our relationships and partnerships evolving through each phase of the development of the site and its programs.

 

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