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345 Art Gallery Raising the Bar in East Garfield Park

345 Art Gallery Raising the Bar in East Garfield Park

The greater west side of Chicago is proceeding major development and despite dialogue on gentrification, there are some residents who are taking strides in being part of the changes in the area.

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Before 345 Gallery, 345 N. Kedzie, opened three years ago it was an old abandoned church building.  The space conveniently sits a couple of blocks from the Kedzie Greenline station and across the street from Breakthrough which is a growing organization in East Garfield Park.

“You know we put on exhibits and stuff like that.  I’ve worked with all the schools in the area and I was hosting for the kids almost every month.  I was working with Westinghouse, Al Raby, Learn Charter School and every school in the area we’ve worked with”, said owner/collector Corry Williams.

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The beautiful pieces being displayed are switched out every 45 days and as part of the Diasporal Rhythms Arts Collective, Williams has an abundant creative network throughout Chicago.  As the space continues to grow in occupancy, Williams is using the space for multiple purposes.

The Chicago City Bureau recently held a public meeting on understanding Community Benefits Agreements (CBA’s) while residents acknowledged their awareness of the new developments underway.  Williams has also held a karaoke night that he is planning to make weekly as well as a comedy show due to start in March.

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Upon being born and raised on the west side of Chicago, Williams has spent 20+ years serving as a Chicago Police Officer choosing specifically to work at the 11th District Police Station because he shares a passion for his neighborhood like so many other long time residents.

“There’s so many ways to police and again being exposed and being aware of the elements here, this is another way of policing them… and I represent the neighborhood. I represent Chicago Avenue and Central Park. I represent a young African-American growing up on the westside. This is what I represent. My art gallery represents us as a people. The struggles and adversity we face you know we gone be alright. We are alright. We are awesome,” said Williams.

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He addressed the connection between a lot of negative conversations he’s encountered about the west side of Chicago and the impact it may have on the children who live there.  He wants to use himself and his space to encourage positive outlets found on the west side.

“That culture… you can display that culture that’s missing, that was lost and that’s not talked about on the westside.  Even for the residents and the kids just walking down the street, there’s so many distractions going on. You can walk down two city blocks and you’ll see liquor stores, drug addicts and abandoned buildings. All this negativity when you’re just walking down the street and just seems like you can’t avoid it.”

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He addressed the “new” Westinghouse, emphasizing on the word “new” in regards to the diverse class of students since the remodeling of the campus back in 2009.  He said he also often collaborates with Breakthrough and hopes to continue using his business as a tool for positive impact.

Be sure to check out the space.  Peace.

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