It is no secret that Washington Park and Woodlawn have seen better days. Economic depression and consistently declining populations since the 1970s have led to collective downturn. Currently, the neighborhoods are caught in the crossroads of the lingering memory of a thriving local culture and middle class and the issue of how exactly revival can be effectively stoked. Two newly fashioned courses point to answers: one fostered by communal organizations of both neighborhoods, and the other led by the University of Chicago.
One block south of the Cottage Grove Green Line station, the history and the future of Chicago music converge. Woodlawn’s Grand Ballroom, known as the Loeffler Building in earlier years, has played host to some of the greats of American jazz—Louis Armstrong, Earl Hines, and Charlie Parker, to name a few. Today the building leases ground-floor space to the two-year-old Coltrane Conservatory of the Arts, a jazz school founded and run by Joe Pace III. Continue reading
“We made something where there was nothing at all,” announced 20th Ward Alderman Willie Cochran at the unveiling of the mural at 63rd Street and South Wallace Avenue on October 10. “And by including children in the building process, we’ve exposed them to the process by which they can achieve greater good.”
Greetings, cousins!” Naomi Davis’s voice booms across the crowd seated on folding chairs and hay bales at the Green Village Pavilion, a space of calm tucked into a corner of the African Festival of the Arts in Washington Park. Out on the festival’s pathways, women double-dutch in the shade. Reggae music floats over from the booth down the lane.
Woodlawn and Washington Park sprung up in the late-nineteenth century, accompanied by a rapid influx of (primarily European) immigrant populations and increased industry driven by the 1893 World’s Fair. During the twentieth century, Woodlawn and Washington Park served as a hub of political and cultural activity: important figures from Saul Alinsky to Jesse Owens are associated with the area. Continue reading
While arranging glass jars of baking soda, cayenne, and other ingredients, Gabrielle Darvassy, owner of vegetarian eatery B’Gabs Goodies, explained why the small Mason jar of dull reddish-brown powder in my hand was so important. Continue reading
Inside the Experimental Station, silence is punctuated by the piercing sound of gunshots. As part of its exhibit “Concealed Carry,” the Station has installed a mechanically operated shotgun that fires blanks every time a housefly crosses its path. Continue reading
As the clock counts down to the end of the first quarter, a three-point shot by a player in red bounces off the rim and the blue team gains possession. But they do not have enough time to carry the ball back down the court, and the buzzer sounds just as their Hail Mary from half-court falls short. The players hustle back to their respective benches, with the blue team up by four. Continue reading
West Woodlawn was granted tax increment financing (TIF) district status by the city in 2010. Yet TIF-directed development has been poorly received by the local nonprofit environmental group Blacks in Green, which has been advocating for community-based development projects since 2007. On November 21, the group held a forum entitled “Who Owns West Woodlawn?” to publicize the results of an extensive survey of the neighborhood’s development potential. Continue reading