The building that houses SkyART has come a long way to become what it is now. The people who grew up in the neighborhood knew it as Ellis Cleaners, a dry cleaning business. We remember the man in a green jumpsuit leaning on a giant needle on the sign mounted outside, and the funny chemical smell that emanated from its front doors whenever we would pass by it to go into La Jerezana corner store next door to buy Flaming Hot Cheetos on our way to or from the library across the street. The building became vacant, and many thought that it would go the way of the countless small businesses that disappeared at the beginning of the millennium.
A decade later, SkyART is now a thriving pillar in the community with a board that includes Theaster Gates Jr. and representatives from organizations like Heartland Alliance and Airbnb.
SkyART offers various programs that employ art as a way to help children and young adults cope with trauma and mental health challenges. According to director of programs, Devon VanHouten-Maldonado, SkyART relies on licensed professionals to help formerly incarcerated youths cope with trauma in a non-verbal way.
In addition to a gardening program, SkyART offers online video tutorials on cooking, painting, and dancing and paid internships for teens and college students.
Coming soon is the exhibition “Can You See Me?”, which will run from October 14-December 17 at three locations: Weinberg/Newton Gallery in River West, Gates’s Arts + Public Life in Washington Park, and the SkyART space in South Chicago. It will feature the work of currently and formerly incarcerated youth and include panels discussing young people who have been swept up in the criminal justice system.
SkyART, 3026 E. 91st St. (773) 731-9287. skyart.org