A Sweet Saturday Night

In an elegant 1890s-era mansion on King Drive, members of the Bronzeville community joined together for a night devoted to revitalization and social change. Bernard and Denise Loyd opened their home for Saturday Night Sweets, a micro-funding event curated by the Revival Arts Collective, and collected $10 donations at the door. Collective co-founder Frankie Brown provided them with champagne and home-baked sweets, while the Liberian-born Mr. Loyd greeted us warmly and quickly began to talk about his extensive collection of African art. Our conversation was cut short when organization leader Andres Hernandez called the attention of the crowd, and the heart of the event began.

Started less than a year ago by Hernandez, Brown, and Anton Seals, the members of the Revival Arts Collective are self proclaimed “everyday folks” who ask: how do we get artists and entrepreneurs together to provide Bronzeville with the social change and revitalization it desperately needs? Three presenters proposed ways to answer that question, and at the end of the speeches the viewers would vote for which organization best deserved funding, the winner going home with the donations collected at the door.

Toni Anders, a self proclaimed tree hugger and founder of the Sacred Keepers Sustainability Lab, started off the presentations with her proposal for a living wall that would allow the people of Bronzeville to smell the roses in their own neighborhood. The children who partake in her programs would design, construct, and plant this living wall, visible to people driving down King Drive from Anders’ garden on 48th Street.

Chris Devins, an urban planner, presented his Bronzeville Identity Campaign to fill Bronzeville’s commercial corridors with professional, billboard-quality images of famous community members like Louis Armstrong. Following Devins, Teena Sloane-Hendricks presented her project called the Soul Train Impact, dedicated to re-establishing the television program and empowering youth. Choosing between these three unique and passionate projects was by no means an easy task, but in the end the proposal with the most grassroots support was, appropriately, Anders’ living wall.

I left with my pockets full of business cards from a dozen smart, passionate Bronzeville activists and entrepreneurs. The unique structure of crowd funding, and the strong showing of community members at the event, represented well the spirit of both Bronzeville and the Collective. All of their projects are homegrown–they receive no grant money or government support, but instead rely on the passionate and loyal support of the fellow community activists who showed up that evening to support their shared mission of providing local support of the arts as a means to social change.