The building now housing the South Side Community Art Center (SSCAC), located at 3831 S. Michigan Ave., was built in 1892 and originally intended as the private mansion of grain merchant George Seavems. The SSCAC received funding, in part from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in 1940, and transformed the residence into a series of galleries, workshops, studios and offices.
The original Georgian Revival style exterior remains intact, and the remodel, executed by New Bauhaus teachers Hin Bredendieck and Nathan Lerner, is one of the earliest examples of the New Bauhaus style that fused European and American design principles.
Dedicated in 1941 by the WPA’s guiding force, then First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, SSCAC has since been home to a staggering number of well-known artists, art educators and art students. It was designated a Chicago Landmark in 1994, and in 2007, it was a nominated recipient of Partners in Preservation funds, which funded the construction of a much needed, archivally-sound storage space on its third floor. In 2009, it received a grant from the Donnelley Preservation Fund for Illinois that helped the center conduct an assessment of the buildings condition.
SSCAC is the only surviving community art center out of the original 110 created by the WPA, and was the first WPA created community art center founded in an African American community, presently known as Bronzeville.
--Thea Liberty Nichols
(top image: Artists in front of the SSCAC. 2004. Image courtesy of the SSCAC.)