Artist Theaster Gates and the University of Chicago intend to build a new $1.5 million park located along Garfield Boulevard, which would include footpaths for pedestrians, areas for outdoor performances and movie screenings, and new lighting and fencing.
The proposal, which was revealed at a community meeting hosted by Third Ward Alderman Pat Dowell at Greater Harvest Missionary Baptist Church on April 19, requires the university to purchase five vacant lots from the city—the largest section of land purchase by the institution since 2012.
The park is part of the university’s larger campaign to develop a major culture corridor dubbed the Arts Block along East Garfield Boulevard from South Prairie Avenue to South Martin Luther King Drive. Announced last year, the plan to convert vacant spaces into artist studios and exhibition spaces aims to help restore and revitalize Washington Park.
A new arts center on the block designed by Johnston Marklee—including a black-box theater, rehearsal space, green room, dressing room, and lobby for public programming and exhibitions—will enter the first phase of construction this summer. Located at 317 East Garfield Boulevard, the Green Line Arts Center will be an interdisciplinary hub for music, dance, theater, and film production.
“The new cultural amenities on the Arts Block will magnify the artistic, cultural, and economic impact of the Washington Park neighborhood and greater South Side,” said Gates, who is currently a professor of visual arts and the director of Arts + Public Life at the University. “I believe in the power of art. The Art Block Lawn and Green Line Arts Center will attract local artists and cultural organizations, neighborhood residents, and arts patrons from across the city, creating an enhanced Arts Block and drivers of increased cultural and economic activity in the Washington Park neighborhood.”