Chicago’s South Side Community Art Center was one of 16 grant winners among a total of 830 applicants across 42 states to win a grant from the African-American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. An initiative of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the African-American Cultural Heritage Action Fund is a program which seeks to preserve and promote African-American historic places.
“History of the South Side Community Art Center: Dedicated by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt in 1941, the South Side Community Art Center at 3831 S. Michigan Avenue was one of nearly 100 art centers established by the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project. Since that time, it has served as a cultural and artistic hub in Chicago, fostering emerging African-American artists and showcasing established talent while connecting South Side residents to art through exhibits, classes, lectures, and other educational programming. The center is the only Works Progress Administration art center still operating as established in its original building.” (From savingplaces.org)
SSCAC has an extensive restoration strategy for the building to better serve the community and improve its exhibit and programming spaces. The grant award from the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund will be used to cover window restoration work on the historic building.
Dr. Margaret Burroughs and other African American artists banded together determined to find a venue to showcase their art. Through dedicated fundraising efforts, 3831 S. Michigan was purchased as the home of the SSCAC. President Roosevelt’s WPA Initiative paid artists’ salaries. The SSCAC is the only African American Art Center of its kind opened under the WPA Initiative to remain continuously open.
First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt delivered the dedication speech at the SSCAC Saturday, May 7, 1941 at 3:00p.m. The event was covered by all major local and national networks of the day.
The SSCAC became a Chicago Historic Landmark in June 1994.