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This summer, we opened a call for teams to collaborate with us during July – September 2019. See below project goals, guides for collaboration and guiding themes. 


Creative Grounds @ Anthony Overton invited collaborative projects among Bronzeville/Southside and city-wide artists, architects, designers, students and residents to activate the different spaces in the school with site-specific temporary projects exploring the intersections of MEMORY, INCLUSION and EQUITY.

Photo: Catalog Classroom project (Summer 2018)

Projects were developed between June – September 2019; through 3 public activations, open house style (June, July, August) for teams to meet, workshop and test their projects ideas on-site. These workshops are open to the community, and visitors are welcome to join and interact with different creative processes. Multiple collaborations have been created in the hallways of Overton in the past.


These 3 activations were opportunities for participatory, hands-on activities shaping the different projects. Finally, we hosted one last celebration for the season – a Community Day at the end of September to celebrate collectively the creativity and outcomes of these projects. Community Day was hosted during the opening of the Chicago Architecture Biennial in which Overton was featured site of this international exhibition.

Mauricio Overton 370.JPG


  • Explore specific themes using collaborative and participatory methods – collaboration is a key essential component of these explorations.

  • Encourage exchange of diversity of thought, knowledge, experiences, fields of practice, and methods that will be invaluable to producing work that can meaningfully engage history and collective imagination.

  • Reflect and imagine the future of social infrastructure, equitable spaces, entrepreneurship, technology, innovation and creativity in Chicago’s South Side neighborhoods.


Illustration: Valerie Wong (Spring 2019)


  • Teams should include at least a member from a CREATIVE practice – artist, architect or designer to support a visual or physical interventions in selected space. Teams will be responsible to define collaboratively a design vision, process and participatory method(s).

  • Teams are highly encouraged to be INTERDISCIPLINARY – and integrate members from other fields of practice to enrich and celebrate diversity.

  • Teams are encouraged to be EMBEDDED: at least 50% of team members should reside or work within the community (Bronzeville of South Side neighborhoods).

  • Teams are encouraged to involve students from the community (Bronzeville or South Side neighborhoods).

  • Teams that do not meet this guideline will be encouraged to integrate in their project concept or process a stronger participatory component – how might one-time visitors or participants make, add or contribute with elements or content to your installation?

  • All interventions should be temporary and/or stand alone; projects should be removable and should not alter any of the walls, ceiling, windows, or floor material integrity (e.g. no nailing or drilling or painting directly on any element of the building).

  • Teams will be supported with project materials upon request.

  • Design interventions should be uninstalled after exhibition closes.



Public Activations: 

Saturdays, 1-4pm @ Anthony Overton (221 E 49th St)

July 6

July 27

August 31

Community Day:

Saturday, September 21, 1-5pm

Community Activation Days are open house style and meant to be for on-site work, workshops and meet ups for participating teams. Everyone is welcome to visit, and participate with a team if they are interested/available.


1:00-1:30 -- ALL: welcome, introductions, building walk through, projects descriptions

1:30-1:45 -- ALL: break -- team/project break out -- grab a snack, meet your team/room

1:45-3:30 -- TEAM/PROJECT: project workshop 

3:30-4:00 -- ALL: teams presentations (share what you did / what are you going to do) / walk through different classrooms / breakdown.




We are seeking to leverage a few themes through this project, and would encourage all participants teams to explore any combination of or connections between each – they are simple and flexible prompts based on MEMORY, INCLUSION and EQUITY. See below some examples:


  • Think of legacy – be inspired by Anthony Overton as an African-American entrepreneur, business pioneer and civic leader.

  • History and/or stories from Bronzeville or South Side community.

  • Architecture and design of Overton School by Perkins + Will (1963).


  • Think of transformation and process broadly – who benefits? who gets burden?

  • ​Fundamental aspects of radical inclusion are based on leveraging social and racial equity, understanding the impact of decision making processes, and commitment to uplifting the voices of those who are often underrepresented.

  • How can art, design and architecture create a call for collective action? Or support and amplify existing community organizing efforts?


  • Think of systems – how one issue impacts another. How things are connected. Cause and effect. 

  • Schools closings are inherently related to population loss. Black population loss specifically. They are the result of systemic inequities. How can we design systems for reparation and justice?

  • Schools closings are one of several items that are clear evidence of need of investment. How giving visibility to these issues and providing a space for public reflection might support and advocate for investment in social infrastructure in the Southside of Chicago?



Interested teams please complete this online google form by Friday, August 10, 2019.

Do you need help finding a partner, a team, or collaborators?

Or do you have any questions?

Send us a message:



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

Photo: Sophia Forero

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