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City land sale clears a path for artist live/work ‘pods’ on Chicago’s South Side

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The community-focused project hopes to reactivate vacant land with landscaping and art studios

Chicago Department of Planning and Development

A plan to transform 13 blighted city-owned lots in the Grand Crossing neighborhood into a new landscaped park, community center, sculpture garden, and live/work spaces for artists reached an important milestone this week when the City of Chicago signed off on the land’s sale for $1. Known as Kenwood Gardens, the innovative project comes from Chicago Arts + Industry Commons (CAIC), a collaboration of local organizations including University of Chicago’s Place Lab and the Stony Island Arts Bank creator and community activist Theaster Gates.

Located along Kenwood Avenue between 68th and 70th streets, Kenwood Gardens would feature space for educational programming, mediation/contemplation, and community-focused gardening. The $4.4 million project also calls for roughly one dozen ‘tiny house’ style studios for local artists to both live and work over the course of three- to six-month residency periods. The site’s existing former Com-Ed substation would be adapted into a communal space.

Kenwood Gardens and Theaster Gates’ scheme to convert the former St. Laurence Catholic school into community art and design studios received a major boost last fall after securing $10.25 million in funding in the form of grants and local contributions. The same group also plans to turn an old power station in Garfield Park into an industrial arts center.

CAIC
CAIC