WICKER PARK – An initiative to develop a community space for artists and businesses in Wicker Park has received a $ 15,000 grant from the city.
In recent years, Equity Arts has worked to create an arts and community center in the neighborhood, which organizers say will house artist studios, community organizations and an event space for public gatherings.
The project aims to “create what we call an Equity Art Center, where there are multiple tenants of art spaces that will be affordable in perpetuity,” said Alma Wieser, president of Equity Arts and director of Heaven Gallery, 1550 N. Milwaukee Ave.
âEquity Arts is really thinking about rewriting the narrative of this neighborhood, about really saying how the arts were instrumental in building it and how we will need it to rebuild it,â she said.
The initiative is one of 11 projects to receive a grant under a city-run transit-focused equitable development pilot program.
âThe objectives of the plan include stimulating investment in transit-focused projects on the south, west and southwest sides, while preventing travel and promoting affordability in the north and northwest sides of the city, âaccording to a city press release.
Wieser said Equity Arts plans to use the grant to launch an âinvestment toolâ in the spring – a formal process that will seek input from community stakeholders and ultimately identify potential investors.
Wieser said the group hopes to raise $ 5 million through this process to secure a building – ideally something near the main Wicker Park intersection of Milwaukee, North and Damen avenues.
Organizers hope Equity Arts will serve as a model for other neighborhoods and cities facing gentrification and artist displacement.
âWhat we’re proposingâ¦ is a tiered financial structure that buys assets, places them in a perpetual-purpose trust that places deed restrictions on what the building’s purpose will be forever,â said Wieser. “The goal we have is for creative use and affordable rents for artists.”
Wieser said the group had letters of intent from seven arts organizations to be potential tenants.
At least 60% of tenants and staff will be people of color, Wieser said.
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