School of the Art Institute of Chicago at Homan Square Engages Community In Arts And Culture

School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) has had a presence in the North Lawndale community for about a decade. PHOTO
PROVIDED BY MYWHY AGENCY/@SAICATHOMANSQUARE.
School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) has had a presence in the North Lawndale community for about a decade. PHOTO PROVIDED BY MYWHY AGENCY/@SAICATHOMANSQUARE.

School of the Art Institute of Chicago at Homan Square Engages Community In Arts And Culture

By Tia Carol Jones

For about a decade the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) has had a presence in the North Lawndale community. With the School of the Art Institute of Chicago at Homan Square, it has been able to engage the community in projects that bring the community and the school together.

Jacqueline Williams, Executive Director of the Office of Engagement at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), said the School of the Art Institute of Chicago at Homan Square was brought to the campus by the School of the Art Institute of Chicago President Emeritus Walter Massey who wanted to find a community that the school could take its classes, students and faculty and have a real impact.

“It is a wonderful community that is growing, and much like many Chicago communities we work in, it is going through a real resurgence,” she said.

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago at Homan Square is located at 906 S. Homan, also known as Nichols Tower, which was the site of the offices for the Sears campus. Students from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago take classes at Homan Square as well as participate in civic engagement projects with the community. There is an artist-in-residence program, as well as youth and adult programming at Homan Square. There is a sneaker lab where high school students learn how to create a sneaker, from design to construction. Previously, there was a denim lab that taught the history of indigo to the construction of denim.

“It has been a wonderful project of connecting pieces of art, history and knowledge back to North Lawndale and students get to learn from all of this and connect the art to it,” Williams said.

The work that the School of the Art Institute of Chicago does at Homan Square is a collaboration and partnership between the school and organizations that have already been doing work in the community, including Stone Temple Baptist Church, Center for the Open Arts, North Lawndale Community Council. The collaborative relationship between the entities enables the community to provide input about what is needed and what they want in those spaces.

Williams said the School of the Art Institute of Chicago at Homan Square is a conduit to bringing faculty, students, staff and resources to the community to help have an impact on the arts and culture in the North Lawndale Community. One of the projects Williams highlighted is the welding project, which was a partnership between SAIC at Homan Square and Stone Temple Baptist Church. There was a need to beautify the garden adjacent to the church, with flowers and signage and structures. Somehow, a conversation took place about welding and an MFA student was connected with the church. The artist trained members of the community in welding and that new skill had the potential to lead to other opportunities.

“One of the things that we do that I think we do so well, is we connect our students and faculty to the programs and projects in the community,” Williams said. “Welding could lead to welding apprenticeships and welding jobs. Just like photography could lead to photography apprenticeships and ultimately jobs.”

Williams said one of the biggest impacts of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s work in Homan Square is to show art is more than painting on a canvas or performing on stage. There are so many facets to working in the arts and the work SAIC is doing showcases those entrepreneurial efforts that come from art.

On Monday, April 22nd the School of the Art Institute of Chicago hosted an event to celebrate the partnership with the community and stakeholders at Homan Square. The Community Builders dinner acknowledged all the community organizations the School of the Art Institute of Chicago has worked with throughout the last ten years. Williams said the School of the Art Institute of Chicago is extremely proud of that work it is doing in North Lawndale, are committed to the community and looking forward to doing more.

For more information about the School of the Art Institute of Chicago at Homan Square, visit www.saic.edu/public-programs/homan-square.

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