South Side Community Art Center

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The South Side Community Art Center is a community art center in Chicago that opened in 1940 with support from the Works Progress Administration's Federal Art Project (WPA-FAP) in Illinois.[1] It was the first black art museum in the United States[2] and has been an important center for the development Chicago's African American artists.[1] The center was awarded Chicago Landmark status in 1994.[1] Of over 100 art centers established by the WPA-FAP, this is the only one that remains open.


Completed in 1893, at 3831 S. Michigan Avenue, the Georgian Revival-style building designed by architect L. Gustav Hallberg, originally served as a residence for grain merchant George A. Seaverns, Jr.[1]

In 1940, the by then vacant brownstone building was selected as the site for the planned community art center and was purchased for about $8,000[3] with funds raised by the community.[4][5][6] The building is sometimes referred to as the Comiskey Mansion,[5][7] but according to UNCAP, the Uncovering New Chicago Archives Project, the house belonging to Charles Comiskey was further south on Michigan Avenue.[3] The community paid for the lease and purchase of the building, for utilities, and for art supplies.[6] The federal government helped to stimulate the establishment of the center via support from the Works Progress Administration's (WPA) Federal Art Project (FAP).[5] They provided administrative funds for staff and faculty and funds for the remodeling of the building.[6] The interior was remodeled in the New Bauhaus-style by Hin Bredendieck and Nathan Lerner and the centre opened unofficially for its first classes on December 15, 1940.[1][3][6][7] The opening was accompanied by an inaugural exhibition of paintings by local black artists including Charles Davis, Charles White, Bernard Goss, William Carter, Eldzier Cortor, Charles Sebree, Archibald Motley, Jr., amongst others.[7] The interracial faculty of art instructors included Davis, White, Goss, Carter, Morris Topchevsky, Si Gordon, Max Kahn, and Todros Geller.[8] Lessons were free and included oil painting, drawing, composition, water color, sculpture, lithography, poster design, fashion illustration, interior decoration, silk screen, weaving, and hooked rug-making.[7] By March 1941, 13,500 people had attended classes, exhibitions, and events at the center.[8] First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt gave the dedication ceremony on May 7, 1941 in a ceremony that broadcast nationwide on CBS radio.[3][8]

Among its alumni are Charles White, Bernard Goss, George Neal, Eldzier Cortor, Gordon Parks, Archibald Motley, and Margaret Burroughs.[9]

The mission of the South Side Community Art Center is to preserve, conserve and promote African American art and artist, both the legacy and the future, while educating the community on the value of art and culture.

The Vision of the South Side Community Art Center is to be the bridge that links the history and future of visual arts through preservation, education, conservation and exhibition.

Tagline - "A frame on the past, a window to the future."

Landmark status[edit]

The center earned Chicago Landmark status on June 16, 1994.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Chicago Landmarks - South Side Community Art Center". City of Chicago. Retrieved 25 December 2010. 
  2. ^ Knupfer, p. 2.
  3. ^ a b c d "Guide to the Archives of the South Side Community Art Center, 1938-2008". UNCAP. September 2009. Retrieved 25 December 2010. 
  4. ^ Cohn, p. 108.
  5. ^ a b c Knupfer, p. 67.
  6. ^ a b c d "History". South Side Community Art Center. Retrieved 25 December 2010. 
  7. ^ a b c d Cohn, p. 109.
  8. ^ a b c Cohn, p. 110.
  9. ^ "South Side Community Art Center". The Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago. Chicago Historical Society. 2005. Retrieved 2007-10-25. 


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