Tag Archives: Center for Urban Transformation

See Potential: helping us all envision the rebirth of abandoned buildings on the South Side.

See Potential in what’s around us. That’s the goal of photographer Emily Schiffer’s See Potential initiative: affixing huge weatherproof photographic works to undervalued community assets. It’s a great idea that can help harness the public imagination for the greater good. It’s the sort of greater good that Schiffer always hoped her art would serve. She related to Benevolent Media:

“It’s very clear that publishing an image in a magazine or having a gallery show or having a book isn’t actually going to change anything… I’m always jealous of people who do pottery, for example, because their art has some sort of practical use.

For instance, Gladys’ Luncheonette (a Soul Restaurant that served Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood for decades, but recently closed) is re-imagined through imagery as a healthy corner store offering cooking classes. For members of the neighborhood, this is definitely a soft sell; but Schiffer, alongside Orrin Williams and Judith Helfand, is also trying to sell the viability of community development to outside investors (as well as the City of Chicago itself).

The works will illustrate the Center for Urban Transformation’s revitalization plans for shared community spaces such as:

- Locally owned corner stores that will sell nutritious food and provide on-site, healthy cooking classes.

- Year-round, indoor growing sites using aquaponics technology will train and employ community members and supply food to local healthy corner stores.

- Cooking schools or community centers refashioned from blighted homes that will provide holistic living practices through diverse forms of community outreach and education.

- Community gardens created in empty lots.

According to their Kickstarter proposal:

“Each photographic installation will include a text panel encouraging onlookers to send a text message in support of that specific site transformation.  Using a custom-designed SMS text messaging infrastructure and GPS technology, [they] will collect all messages and record the location from which each text was sent.  By pinpointing the different locations and by tracking the amount of public support at each site, we will be able to present a series of interactive, web-based maps to potential funders, policy makers, and city officials.”

This is just the sort of paradigm shift that Darkjive is all about, something I term as Lack versus Fat (outlined fully here). Using the analogy of the coffee can full of grease that my grandmother kept on her stovetop, the grease (and the can itself) could, at first, be considered waste material. But upon reevaluation, it can also be considered a resource that can contribute to the kind of meal that sustains life. The same can be said for abandoned buildings, or so many things in our communities that can be seen as deficits.

for more on the project (which was recently successfully funded via Kickstarter) click here.


Growing Home: reclaiming the earth beneath the concrete.

rooftop garden atop the Gary Comer Youth Center, 71st and South Chicago

I’m itching for spring. Here in Chicago, the weather has been mercifully mild… Visions of a vegetable and herb garden in my backyard dance in my head. I am swooning over Kale and Basil!

But dreams of building up my South Side neighborhood (through green jobs, better food, and economic empowerment) dance, too. I’m a big supporter of localism and building up every community in Chicago with all the resources needed to support a healthy lifestyle. More importantly, though, I think that living a so-called green life shouldn’t be reserved for the rich. I also think we should all be able to access fresh spinach as readily as a flaming hot cheese puff. I’m glad I’m not the only one.

Growing Home Wood St. Farm, Aug. 2010. Photo by Andrew Collings

Check out this video featuring local Green Activist Orrin Williams of Growing Home and the Center for Urban Transformation; just two of many Urban Agriculture initiatives here in Chicago. Their goals are varied and yet unified: providing green jobs and supplying wholesome food for the community.  Orrin is a friend of Darkjive (and a friend of the South Side). Jive on!


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