- Best Youth Arts Program: SkyART
- Best Art Installation: Urban Trees by South Worx Arte Group
- Best Community Podcast: South by SouthEast (SxSE)
- Best Burger: Chi Burgerbabi
- Best Donut Shop: Chico’s Oven
In the twentieth century, the U.S. Steel South Works manufacturing plant was the heart of economic activity on the Southeast Side, employing more than 15,000 people and creating commercial corridors with businesses to meet the needs of the active neighborhood.
The South Works site was closed in 1992. Today, the pillars that used to store steel ore remain as anchors of its vigorous past. The site, Steelworkers Park, reclaimed from the brownfield that once restricted its access, is now a green space for visitors and residents. While the mills have closed, the legacy of these families of immigrants and migrants has not been forgotten. Ornamented with native prairie plants, original blast furnaces, and local artist Roman Villarreal’s “Tribute to the Past” sculpture, the park pays homage to the area’s history and the families of the steelworkers whose combined strengths built Chicago’s skyscrapers.
But although the steel mills and industry have played an important part in the identity of the Southeast Side, record of this past has been replayed over and over in discussions of the neighborhoods. The past should longer overshadow the talent, diversity, and strength of the Southeast Side; there’s so much to the area that even the most unfamiliar may be inspired by!
Community is the Southeast Side’s greatest strength. From Eastern European immigrants to Mexican roots that were established in the 1920s; from its history of African-American migration to its newer Caribbean heritage, a diverse multitude of residents have been welded together to create the Southeast Side identity. The area’s resilience and strengths continue to grow through leaders like those profiled here, who are leaving their impact on generations to come. Local leaders, business owners, artists, and neighbors alike have contributed to the nature of community in the area, and continue to make their names on the Southeast Side through their advocacy, community organization, and art.
Neighborhood captain Aisaiah Pellecer is a South Chicago local and student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.