Washington Park Arts Incubator

The University of Chicago

Funding Received: 2012
Chicago, IL
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
January 29, 2014

Lisa Yun Lee listens to comments from her fellow audience members during a provocative discussion at the Arts Incubator between actor and professor Anna Deavere Smith and artist Theaster Gates

In a bitterly cold January—even by Chicago standards—the Arts +Public Life Initiative continued its mission of fostering rich, diverse and stimulating programs and connections on Chicago’s South Side.

Arts + Public Life Director Theaster Gates and actress and playwright and professor Anna Deavere Smith met for a wide-ranging discussion at the Initiative’s Art Incubator located in the Washington Park community. Smith, who has a three-week residency at the University of Chicago during the month of January, talked with Gates about the need for all cultural institutions to be more inclusive and to actively reach wide audiences. Smith also spoke of the importance of creating and maintaining those institutions in neighborhoods such as Washington Park.

Recent Wins
-- The Arts + Public Life Initiative hired Lee Bey, who once served as senior urban planning advisor to former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. Working out of the Arts Incubator, Bey will manage strategic initiatives and continue to strengthen and develop partnerships between the Arts + Public Life Initiative and arts organizations, community groups, civic leaders and the university community.

-- The Arts Incubator continues to draw a variety of visitors and users from the neighborhood, university and city as well as nationally. Dan Lurie, director of strategic partnerships for the National Endowment of the Arts visited the Incubator and the Initiative’s next project, a café that will open next door in the coming months.

-- The café is a much-needed resource in the community, but it will be made more viable by the presence of and relationship to the Arts Incubator next door, underscoring creative placemaking’s power to bring opportunities for growth to the area that might not otherwise exist.

The Incubator’s success has given us deeper insight into the issue of the severe lack of space for artists on the city’s South Side. Our studio spaces are booked; our Deign Apprenticeship Program for youth is reaching capacity. These issues are consistent with the reason why we are here: to create a model that can be replicated elsewhere—be it in other cities, or in neighboring communities.