SAIC was invited by community leaders and the Foundation for Homan Square, a local organization that has been working in North Lawndale for nearly 30 years, to be part of a developing collective of nonprofit organizations working to bring resources to the neighborhood.
Our partners in the Nichols Tower provide services in healthcare, housing, employment, childcare and parenting, literacy, and media-production training. The Foundation for Homan Square asked SAIC to join this group because, just like these other services, art can be a transformative force in individuals’ lives. We believe that making art education more readily available to all—regardless of income, age, or background—is important and valuable, and that art making is an essential component of a vibrant, just, and healthy society.
The 2015 launch of SAIC at Homan Square came after three years spent visiting neighborhood meetings, speaking with business and cultural leaders, and engaging with residents across demographics to learn what resources might be most useful and desired. It was, and still is, important to us to connect the community and artists in meaningful ways by having voices from both sides at the table.
SAIC students and faculty led the School’s initial efforts in the community. Graduate students in the Department of Arts Administration and Policy completed a cultural audit of North Lawndale and a Historic Preservation course studied local architecture and contributed historical research to the renovation of the tower, built in 1906. Another Arts Administration and Policy course undertook an extensive oral history project in which students interviewed residents and built an archival platform for sharing their stories with the community and beyond. In addition to working with residents to document their own history, the stories were an excellent vehicle for determining what kind of arts education programs the community wanted and needed.
The School received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in spring 2016 to develop more programming at Homan Square. We look forward to continuing to break new ground in this collaboration through courses, events, and increased integration between Homan Square and SAIC as a whole.