There are jewels in Chicago Heights worthy of becoming art. Some residents say it's a small waterfall in the woods. Others say it's their church. Mayor Gonzalez has shared a full list of locations, from Arche Fountain to Memorial Mound.
Since Nov. 2012, Union Street Gallery has been leading a project meant to capture that art.
The community-wide photography project, running through May, focuses on the positive in our community. Thanks to funding from Chicago Community Trust, the gallery is bringing together artists, citizen photographers and community leaders to create an amazing set of images of the Heights.
There are rules to taking part in this project, according to Gallery Director Jessica Segal.
"This project is by invite only," says Segal. "You have to be a Chicago Heights resident, over 18 and be invited by a community leader to take part in this project."
“Rediscovery: Visualizing Chicago Heights” is a celebration of the community and asks participants see and document the beauty, culture and meaning of the Heights. A divergence from the norm, this project aims to recalibrate our focus toward the strengths of the Heights.
Using their own or loaned digital cameras, a wide variety of residents will be challenged to find and photograph these specific points of beauty and meaning.
The gallery is collaborating with elected officials and community leaders to invite residents to participate, having already made the rounds to public metings and churches throughout the city. The board of directors and the staff at the gallery will work with the community leaders and their designated participants in building a rich collection of positive images.
Segal gave some examples of what the gallery hopes to include in the photography project. "There are some gorgeous buildings and remnants of Chicago Heights that are still around," Segal said. "Even though some of these buildings are run down, they have such history and beauty to them."
But brick and mortar isn't all the gallery wants for this project. It wants people as well. Part of the goal, Segal said, is to capture families celebrating life events and document those moments as added jewels to the project.
"Families living in Chicago Heights is also what we would like to see," Segal said. "If a family is having a party, take pictures. It's a very culturally rich community."
Mayor Gonzalez, discussing the details of the project, said it really got him to thinking further about what places in the Heights make the city beautiful:
I think what makes Chicago Heights beautiful, in both the physical and emotional sense of ‘beauty,' is a combination of nature, architecture and history. A newly-planted flower garden to one person can be just as beautiful as a 100-year-old brick building is to another. We have wonderful places in our city to enjoy and admire, especially near and around schools, parks and churches, that combine these aspects. Perhaps the real beauty of our city is its history, diversity, sense of community and family values.
"Beauty of course is in the eye of the beholder," adds Segal.
A variety of images—at least one from each photographer—will be selected to be part of a major exhibit hosted at the gallery from April 19 to May 11. The exhibit will also feature work by two Chicago-area professional photographers, Alonso Balderas and Joe Compean, who were invited to discover Chicago Heights through their own artistic vision. The exhibit will end with a day-long arts and jazz festival with music provided by jazz groups from Prairie State College. The festival will take place Saturday, May 11, 2013, with times to be announced.
Along with the exhibit and festival, the gallery will be creating street banners and a book with photos and quotes by the citizen photographers, which will be available for sale and distribution throughout the community. These items are meant to give the project a lasting positive impact on the community.
For more information about “Rediscovery: Visualizing Chicago Heights," call the gallery at 708-754-2601. You can calso learn more about Union Street Gallery, by visiting its listing on Patch.
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