Happy Birthday, HPAC: Seventy days of activities in celebration of HPAC’s seventieth anniversary

A community fixture for seven decades, the Hyde Park Art Center (HPAC) is getting ready to celebrate its legacy thus far with more than two months of events and programs entitled “70 Days for 70 Years.” In addition to inviting visitors to take in the Center’s artwork (photographs by local high school students are currently featured; see facing page), lectures, demonstrations, and performance pieces offer the opportunity to do everything from learn to make kimchi to hobnob with a former member of the Weather Underground.

Running 70 days from from April 25 through Independence Day, the celebration presents a mixture of informational workshops and artistic exhibitions. HPAC Marketing and Communications Manager Crystal Pernell said the center simply asked different artists and organizations in the community if they would like to participate, and the calendar began to fill up. Given the amount of slots to fill, Pernell said she is “pretty surprised at how smoothly it’s gone.”

Among the gala’s highlights, Pernell pointed out a writing workshop with poet Quraysh Ali Lansana and a performance by slam poet Kevin Coval (June 27 and July 2, respectively) as “two events that take writing in two different directions.” One of the few events held outside HPAC’s recently-opened building will be the April 29 behind-the-scenes look at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers. There, attendees will not only get a look at the auction house’s upcoming sales, but can also pick up tips on how to assess items and make bids. Anyone who wants to head down the slippery slope of social networking sites should attend the “What’s a Twitter? Who’s a Facebook?” workshop hosted on May 14 by the Digital Youth Network. Meanwhile, the more revolution-inclined might enjoy a lecture by former Weatherman Bill Ayers on May 25. And grad students weary of ramen and cereal ought to appreciate May 16’s kimchi cooking workshop.

Art-related events are planned as well. Pernell said some of HPAC’s regular events are being incorporated into “70 Days for 70 Years,” including the center’s “Cocktails and Clay” event every second Friday of the month. However, Pernell added that HPAC will be giving them each a “special twist” such as a DJ or dance performance. There are also drawing workshops, meet-the-artist events, and even an “Open Crit Program” on May 21, during which artists who want feedback can bring their work into HPAC for review.
While all events are free, HPAC has received a challenge grant from the Kanter Family Foundation. The Foundation will match every dollar donated to the center during the 70 days, up to $35,000. Pernell hopes that HPAC will end the event $70,000 wealthier.

Not to be missed is June 27’s “Fryvalry,” in which artists Philip Von Zweck and Kevin Jennings roll out two boiling vats of oil–one vegetarian, one for the carnivores–and commence to fry offerings for the audience’s judgment. Pernell said the pair has hosted the event elsewhere, and her impression of it is that “it’s more about eating fried food than actual competition.”

Bringing a mixture of instruction, interaction, and enjoyment well into the Chicago summer, HPAC’s “70 Days for 70 Years” should appeal the creative impulse in a variety of people, from those curious about auctions to those who simply want to talk to an artist about her work. “70 Days” also provides an opportunity for HPAC to show off its new building, which has earned positive press in the New York Times. Between the new digs and a diverse lineup of events, HPAC’s next birthday will have a hard act to follow.
Hyde Park Art Center. 5020 S. Cornell Ave. Through July 4. Monday-Thursday, 9am-8pm; Friday-Saturday, 9am-5pm; Sunday, noon-5pm. (773)324-5520. hydeparkart.org