Hyde Park Arts Center expands, takes local art by the horns



New art opportunities are opening closer to home. The Hyde Park Art Center (HPAC) has just unveiled plans for the construction of a new wing on the building to accomodate the work of burgeoning artists, as well as a new installation to celebrate 75 years of providing art in the neighborhood. The new artist workshop wing is set to open spring 2015. 

The renovation will convert the space, previously used for storage, into the Guida Family Creative Wing, named in honor of the family’s $750,000 donation to HPAC. The new wing will house the art center’s residency program. This program provides a Chicago-based artist with one year of studio and apartment space in the center, with resources to work toward a major exhibition showcased in the spring. In addition to supporting local talent, HPAC also provides two to three months of research residency for foreign artists of note. Right now the residency program is hosting Einat Amir, popular in her hometown of Tel Aviv. Amir’s experimental work focuses on participatory performance art and video installations, blending fiction and reality to create discourse on social and political issues.

Brook Rosini, HPAC’s marketing and communications manager, states that these residency programs create dialogue for the local art world. “Particularly the foreign aspect helps facilitate dialogue and idea exchange between artists and the community,” Rosini said.

HPAC is Chicago’s oldest alternative exhibition space, established in 1939. It has been housed on South Cornell Avenue since 2006, but has a long history of moving within Hyde Park; its first location was a defunct saloon, and its last location, the local army warehouse. The University of Chicago leases this now-converted warehouse to HPAC, and the space costs them a whopping $1 dollar in rent a year.

The center’s artful architecture itself is conceptually interesting. It not only has an entire glass façade to showcase digital film projects which can be seen from both inside and outside the center, but it also shirks its own main entrance, giving way to five metal garage doors that open up to the main gallery from the street. Both of these constructs allow for greater transparency in the art-making process and exhibition world.

HPAC has had a strong impact on the community since its opening. “Always located in Hyde Park, it has become a facet of the community’s identity, specifically catering to this neighborhood,” Rosini states. It is free and open to the public, and produces numerous events throughout the year. UChicago students can use HPAC as a resource that showcases not only art from local and global artists but also the actual artists themselves. Students many the opportunities to get involved, from showcasing work to coming to free events and meeting artists. “Our mission is to support artists…there are lots of entry points and ways to get involved. For anyone pursuing an arts degree, the HPAC features a biennale called Ground Floor, reviewing nominations specifically from MFA candidates in Chicago,” Rosini said.

As for the second surprise after the announcement of a new space visitors were led into an impressive space, dominated by the figure of a fallen bull made entirely of coarse fabric rugs. Titled “The Beast,” this installation is by John Preus, current artist in the HPAC residency program. Preus says he was influenced in part by Jonah’s adventure and internal reflection within the belly of the whale. Built in just five days, Preus had to climb the bull’s body, grasping the horns to finish his work. The installation space becomes even more impressive, as well as eerie, when visitors are led inside of the bull. Large enough to fit a small crowd standing, the hollow interior of the beast serves as a performance space. On opening night, Preus played with his experimental band in the “bowels” of the beast. The installation seemed an apt choice alongside HPAC’s grand news of the new wing—there’s so much more to be seen on the inside.

“The Beast” will show through August 3 at the Hyde Park Arts Center, 5020 South Cornell Avenue. Admission is free.