Riots to Renaissance: South Side Community Arts Center

South Side Community Arts Center

A poetry reading at the South Side Community Art Center, 1942. (Source: Library of Congress)

Out of more than 100 community arts centers established by the WPA during the Depression, the South Side Community Arts Center (SSCAC), located at 3831 South Michigan Avenue,is the only one still in existence. In the 1930s and 1940s, the SSCAC provided lectures, classes, and workshops for adults and children. Because few downtown art galleries presented the work of black artists, the SSCAC mounted exhibits and developed a national reputation for these showcases. The people and programs at the center were a tremendous influence on the artists, teachers, and students who passed through the building. Poet Gwendolyn Brooks, photographer Gordon Parks, and artists Charles White, Elizabeth Catlett, Charles Seebree, and Jonathan Green are just a few of the artists who worked, lived, or studied at the center and went on to achieve national and international acclaim. The South Side Community Arts Center's legacy in arts and social activism continues to ripple through the city of Chicago and the nation.