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While 2020 proved to be a difficult year in more ways than we can count, Borderless Studio offered visions of a new future. The Climate and Cultural Resilience project began in the summer of 2020 and brought together a diverse team of designers, artists, contractors, landscapers, and local youth to manifest our belief in community strength.

See below project elements, goals, guiding themes and guides for collaboration. 


The Climate and Cultural Resilience initiative tackled the challenges of flooding. We are faced with the reality of local governments underfunding and under prioritizing the infrastructural perseverance of many neighborhoods, like Bronzeville. Communities of color are most susceptible to their homes and neighborhoods flooding. Bronzeville (between 31st and 60th street, from the Dan Ryan expressway to the Lake) has perpetually struggled with flooding issues.


We came together to paint a large scale map of Bronzeville, spanning the entire lot of Overton Elementary’s East side. 

The purple scale indicates the watershed zones throughout Bronzeville. A watershed is a land area that channels rain or snow water towards rivers and eventually larger bodies of water. Our map brings light to the underperformance of Bronzeville’s watersheds. We created a purple gradient over the roads and parks of Bronzeville, displaying a spectrum of land permeability. The lighter zones indicate the opportunities for land to absorb water through open land, parks, or a wide range of green infrastructure. The darkest zones indicate an abundance of concrete, which often causes water to channel into Chicago’s sewer system. Bronzeville’s sewers, homes and roads often overflow. This outcome is directly tied to outdated infrastructure and inadequate water management. The residents who take the largest hit are people of color on Chicago’s South and West sides. We recognize this threat to economic and cultural vitality and bind together to prove our resilience.


Photo: Brandon Biederman


We collaborated with Site Design to instal rain gardens along the periphery of Overton’s east end, surrounding the map.

Using native plants, these gardens help funnel water back into the ground instead of the sewer. The plants also act as small biomes for native insects and birds. While these rain gardens are small, they are meant to help the residents of bronzeville imagine what their neighborhood could look like if more rain gardens were installed in parkways, lawns, and future building plans.





There are four, 8-foot long panels along the fence that serve to inform locals on the topic of their water system, our initiative, and a reimagined future of green solutions.


Photo: Ruth Levy


On the surface of the map, we have installed 22 map markers that point to community assets all across Bronzeville. They inform viewers on the history of important locations in Bronzeville and also catch the eye of people on the sidewalk, inviting them towards the map to engage with the project and Bronzeville’s rich past, present, and future.

Photo Sep 18, 9 25 22 AM.jpg


Photo: Ruth Levy

Photo: Ruth Levy


  • The Climate and Cultural Resilience project does not solve the issues of inequity and governmental neglect, but invites viewers and community members to begin the conversation.

  • To promote the use of green infrastructure to combat flooding.

  • Act as an energetic beacon of community, art and design, and resilience for a new equitable and green future.

Volunteers from around Chicago and Bronzeville locals joined us for 10 full volunteer days over the course of the summer to paint and engage one another in discussing a future of progress. The more we understand about our own neighborhoods; infastruce, history, culture and community assets, the more resilient our neighborhoods become.

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  • By including a visual art element to the markers we will not only be highlighting and promoting local artists and creators, but also furthering Overton’s status as a gathering place for arts and community.

  • Nostalgia 

  • Familiarity 

  • Pride 

  • Symbolism 

  • Space to gather

  • The dimensions of the artwork should be 15” x 15.” Possible mediums: drawing, painting, collage, or hand written poetry. 

  • Participants are asked to submit a scanned or high quality photo of their work as well as a short written statement about what they’ve submitted.  





Anthony Overton Elementary School closed in 2013, and was purchased by the Washington Park Development Group in 2015. Designed and built by prominent local architects, Perkins & Will in 1963, Overton represents a modern and progressive approach to education reform and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2016.


Overton is in the process of being transformed into a business and technology incubation center. "It will offer entrepreneurs facilities training, amenities, and connections to other motivated individuals. The architecturally significant mid-century modern building is an anchor in the community and readily adapted to support new uses like offices, labs, a catering kitchen, a gymnasium, event room and performance stage."

Sources: The Chicago Reporter,  National Register of Historic Places Program, Pappageorge Haymes Partners




Anthony Overton (March 21, 1865 – July 2, 1946), a banker and pioneer manufacturer, was the first African American to lead a major business conglomerate. Overton established Hygienic in 1898 and produced baking powder, extracts, and toilet preparations. After moving the firm from Kansas to Chicago, he began to manufacture a full line of cosmetics and perfumes under the High-Brown Products label. He parlayed his early success with Hygienic into a highly diverse conglomerate, including The Great Northern Realty Company, The Chicago Bee, and the Victory Life Insurance Company. This was the first major conglomerate led by an African-American.

Source: Wikipedia



Thank you to our advisory group for their insights and support:

Camille Applewhite

Alpha Bruton

Monica Chadha

Tiffanie Beatty

Tonika Johnson

Katanya Raby

Rachel Kaplan

Anjulie Rao

Leslé Honoré


Are you a Bronzeville neighbor?

Do you have an active creative practice?

Would you be interested in joining the advisory group for next year?

Send us a message:



Paola Aguirre, Borderless Studio

Ghian Foreman, Washington Park Development Group

Lefty Boyd, I Am Basketball Network

We are looking for volunteers! Are you interesting in helping with:

– Programming

– Community outreach

– Project assistance 

– Documentation

– Social media

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