Our neighborhood association met at the newly renovated Garfield Park Arts Center last night. We toured the building and met the new manager, Robin Williams-Hawks. The building is very impressive. It features a large multi-purpose performing arts space, gallery, classrooms, and recording studio.
While I'm thrilled to have an asset like the Arts Center in my own backyard, Mel and I are worried whether the Center will be accessible. We envisioned a drop-in facility that adds to the sense of community by providing space for groups such as knitting circles. The facility seems to be more focused on visual and performing arts, or any "art" that attracts corporate sponsorships.
The side of the building that opens to the park – where you can find the playground and a soccer field where Mexicans play – doesn't have an entrance. The entrance to the building is in the rear lower level by a large parking lot. My concern is that this facility will be a destination. Folks will use the highway that takes them over all the rotting neighborhoods of the near Southside and deposits them at the door of the Arts Center. After enjoying the Arts Center, they'll get back in their cars and drive away to their suburban utopias. How is that good for the Garfield Park area?
The Arts Center officially opens the weekend of May 5, when they'll feature an exhibit from the Smithsonian. You can catch a preview event this Friday evening from 6pm to 9pm. If you decide to come, be sure to take a walk in the park.