CHICAGO —The University of Chicago announced today the opening of the Green Line Performing Arts Center, providing a vital new theater venue and rehearsal space to support the arts in the Washington Park neighborhood and across Chicago’s South Side.
The Center establishes a new professional theater space on the South Side, providing support to performing artists and theater ensembles, along with programming to train residents with interests in theater design and production. Building on the rich history of performing arts organizations on the South Side, the Center will be the first new theater to open in the Hyde Park / Washington Park / Woodlawn communities in more than a generation, providing a much-needed collaborative space for the performing arts.
Designed by Morris Architects Planners in collaboration with Theaster Gates, a UChicago faculty member, artist, and founder and former director of Arts + Public Life, the Center continues the growth of the Arts Block, a vibrant collection of cultural and commercial spaces on historic Garfield Boulevard across from the Green Line’s Garfield stop in Washington Park.
The Center is part of UChicago’s ambitious Arts + Public Life initiative, which is creating a distinct approach for how colleges and universities can work with local artists and neighboring communities. Arts + Public Life has established and strengthened mutually beneficial connections between the cultural landscape of the South Side and UChicago’s network of resident and visiting artists and academics. The success and continued growth of the Arts Block demonstrates how educational institutions and individuals with creative vision can forge ongoing collaborations.
“The Green Line Performing Arts Center is an important University of Chicago initiative, done in partnership with the South Side community that will create a wide range of artistic opportunities on the South Side for small and community-based theater companies. It is an investment that reflects both the need for such arts-related opportunities and the important role that the arts can play in enhancing communities and their development. We are grateful to our philanthropic partners for joining the University in our strong commitment to supporting Chicago’s rich cultural community,” said Robert J. Zimmer, president of the University of Chicago.
The Green Line Performing Arts Center will host a free, public Opening Celebration on Saturday, November 10 from 2-6 p.m. The event will include performances by local artists, including Bomba con Buya, avery r. young and de deacon board, and Honey Pot Performance. For a schedule of Center events and programs, visit arts.uchicago.edu/glpac.
Housed in four renovated storefront buildings, the Center’s location at various points in history has been home to jazz and entertainment venues, including a restaurant with a live orchestra, a series of music clubs, and most famously Rhumboogie, a nightclub owned by boxing great Joe Louis. The 6,600-square-foot Center includes the E&A Theatre, a black box venue with seating for more than 80 people; the Harris Studio, a separate rehearsal and performance space; and a lobby and outdoor courtyard for public programs and exhibitions including outdoor film screenings.
The Center is supported by the Efroymson Family Fund, Irving Harris Foundation, and UChicago. In recognition of the Efroymson Family Fund and Irving Harris Foundation’s generous contributions to the renovation and adaptive reuse of the Green Line Performing Arts Center, the E&A Theatre and Harris Studio have been named in their honor.
“The Green Line Performing Arts Center is a welcome addition to Garfield Boulevard and all of Washington Park, bringing additional vitality to the areas around the Green Line ‘L’ station and demonstrating a reinvestment in the rich South Side performing arts tradition,” said 3rd Ward Alderman Pat Dowell. “The renovation of these storefronts and the $25 million investment in the CTA’s Garfield Gateway Project prove there is a vibrant future for reawakening this historic boulevard.”
The Arts Block’s first project, the Arts Incubator envisioned by Gates, celebrated its fifth anniversary in March. Since launching, Arts + Public Life has welcomed to the Arts Block over 62,000 attendees and engaged more than 730 area teens from 74 schools, with the vast majority of students attending neighboring South Side public high schools.
“The Green Line Performing Arts Center expands our existing partnerships with South Side artists and arts organizations,” said Lori A. Berko, deputy director of Arts + Public Life. “This space allows us to build upon existing relationships, incubate new ones, and grow our artist residency programs to include theater companies, ensembles and collectives.”
The Center will offer professional training and employment opportunities, providing pathways for residents of Washington Park and the greater South Side through stipend-based training in technical theater, including sound, lighting, and scenic design, and front-of-house and back-of-house management.
“As a director and actor, I am thrilled to be able to partner with Arts + Public Life and the Green Line Performing Arts Center to develop education programs for youth and young adults that will focus on technical theater and design,” said Ron O.J. Parson, Court Theatre resident artist who is advising and developing programming for the Center. “These programs will advance efforts to diversify the design and technical theater fields in the professional theater community.”
In its inaugural season of programming, the Green Line Performing Arts Center will host the GreenLight Series, illuminating the varied performing arts disciplines and inviting audiences to experience a rotating sample of storytelling, music performances, comedy, theater, and dance works presented by artists. The GreenLight series will showcase Grown Folks Stories on Thu. Nov. 15, 7-9 p.m.; South Side Story Time on Sat. Jan. 19, 10-11 a.m.; and In The Spirit on Sun, Feb. 17, 10-11 a.m. Other programs will include APL’s First Monday Jazz Series with Junius Paul Quartet on Mon, Dec. 3, 7-9 p.m. and Vends + Vibes: An Arts Marketplace, Dec 8-9, 12 noon to 5 p.m.
About Arts + Public Life
Arts + Public Life (APL), an initiative of UChicago Arts, provides platforms for artists and access to the arts through residencies, education, cultural entrepreneurship, and arts-led programs and events. APL advances and promotes a robust, collaborative, and evolving relationship between the University of Chicago and the South Side’s vibrant civic, cultural, and artistic communities. APL creates cultural amenities and preserves affordability and authenticity through arts and culture-led neighborhood development. APL continues to share this work by participating in local and national conversations around effective, creative alternatives to conventional financial and development strategies, promoting mindful city-building and equitable neighborhood transformation.
About the Arts Block
The Green Line Performing Arts Center is part of the Arts Block, a vibrant collection of cultural and commercial spaces on historic Garfield Boulevard. The Arts Block combines University-led initiatives, programming produced by cultural organizations, and both philanthropic and private investments. Additional spaces on the Arts Block include the Arts Incubator, Rain Garden, and historic CTA station, currently being renovated to support cultural entrepreneurship, all projects of Arts and Public Life, as well as, Peach’s at Currency Exchange Café and BING, projects of the Rebuild Foundation.
About UChicago Arts
UChicago Arts encompasses the University’s robust cultural scene where scholars, students, artists and audiences converge, explore, and create. UChicago Arts maintains an ambitious suite of initiatives and programs to enhance the cultural landscape at the University of Chicago and on Chicago’s South Side, including Arts + Public Life and its flagship project the Arts Incubator, the Arts, Science & Culture Initiative, the Richard and Mary L. Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry, and the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts. Joining academic departments and programs in the Division of the Humanities and the College, as well as professional organizations including the Court Theatre, Oriental Institute Museum, Smart Museum of Art, Renaissance Society, and University of Chicago Presents, and more than 60 student arts organizations, UChicago Arts is forging an integrative model for practice, presentation, and scholarship.