Art Under Construction: Little hands undertake a big project for the Logan Center

In the back studio of Kenwood’s Little Black Pearl art center, open jars of paint are crammed onto a long table alongside palettes covered in patches of drying pigment. Two huge panels lean against the wall where brightly colored images are being created. Swirls of purple, yellow, orange, and green leap off the surfaces and illuminate the gray walls surrounding them. The panels are being created to commemorate the construction of the Reva and David Logan Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Chicago. Little Black Pearl’s Gwen Pruitt steps back to survey the work. Yesterday, we had around twenty ten-year-olds in here painting,” she says with a smile. The project will bring together six large-scale murals to be installed around the construction site and eventually at each entrance of the Logan Center.

The project was conceived in January by Bill Michel, executive director for the Logan Center. Brittany Little, a management intern for the center, said, “The mural project was an answer to how the Logan Art Center could connect with the community and how it could build lasting artistic relationships before its doors have even opened.” Little Black Pearl, a non profit arts organization committed to creating opportunities for youth and adults to become involved in the creative arts and to utilize art as an economic asset, seemed like a natural partner for this goal.

The mural and the ideas behind it are the product of a sustained community effort. About a month ago, Bill Michel and artists at Little Black Pearl had a brainstorming meeting with University students, community members, and children from programs such as Metropolitan Area Group for Igniting Civilization (MAGIC), Fiske Elementary, and Woodlawn Charter School. They found that many of the ideas proposed by the children and adults they talked to were cohesive. Since the group outlined the premise of the project, the work has been moving along at an astonishing pace. A week ago, the mural’s surface was blank.

Pruitt gestures to the mural. “It’s important to include all the wonderful things encompassed by the arts–performing arts, music, visual arts, digital worlds–and connect them to the neighborhood and to the neighborhood people.” Themes of community unity and support resonate strongly throughout the murals; there are images of people of all colors lifting up fellow citizens. Familiar images of King Drive and Washington Park create a sense of place and further emphasize the involvement of the community where the Logan Center will soon stand. “When thinking creatively it is important to feed off of your environment,” Pruitt says. “You will never run out of creativity.”

The murals will be unveiled May 12th at the ground breaking ceremony for the Reva and David Logan Center for the Performing Arts. E 60th St. at S Drexel Ave.