The Experimental Station
6100 South Blackstone Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637-2912
Chicago, IL 60637-2912
Dr. Connie SpreenWeb Site:
For almost thirty years, 6100 S. Blackstone Avenue, the location of the Experimental Station, provided a haven for a wide range of environmentally, socially, and artistically significant projects that operated quietly but successfully on the fringe of the impoverished and neglected Woodlawn neighborhood. The address steadily developed a reputation among local, national, and international artistic and cultural networks for its vitality, innovation and social relevance. The Experimental Station is a 501-c-3 conceived in the aftermath of a devastating fire that, in 2001, razed all but the exterior brick walls of the building it occupies today at 6100 S. Blackstone. Since 2002, the Experimental Station has been constructed in the most literal and programmatic senses upon the foundation provided by the activities and projects that had animated that location for decades. Founded by Dan Peterman and Connie Spreen, the Experimental Station was created with the intent of expanding the sites role as a cultural and social resource and as an incubator of innovative artistic, cultural, and educational projects, small business enterprise, and community life. Following an ecological model, the Experimental Station recognizes the value of complexity. This means operating both locally and globally, across interdisciplinary boundaries, and across the geographic and demographic borders of Chicago's south side neighborhoods. The variety of the projects that we house, as well as the diversity of the audiences and participants involved in the Experimental Station, are the source of its strength, its dynamism, and its uniqueness. The Experimental Station is a point of intersection for people of profoundly different interests and backgrounds. It is a place where they can encounter one another's interests, and where they can work, share ideas, and build resources together.
The mission of the Experimental Station is to build independent cultural infrastructure on the South Side of Chicago. We do this by fostering a dynamic ecology of innovative educational and cultural programs, small business enterprises and community initiatives. Underlying the Experimental Stations undertakings is a belief in the singular importance of hospitality and generosity as institutional values. As hosts, we aim to provide a place where people and ideas feel welcome, where individuals matter, and where encounters and conversations are fostered that cannot or are unlikely to happen elsewhere. As an institution, we seek to create a nourishing habitat that invites inventiveness, creativity, collaboration, resource sharing, and community. The 61st Street Farmers Market, for which we are seeking funding, is exemplary of the type of hospitable, creative, and solution-oriented programming the Experimental Station strives to provide and encourage. Located literally on the boundary between Hyde Park and Woodlawn, two historically (racially and economically) divided south side neighborhoods, the Market has adopted as its tagline the phrase Connect with your food. Not only do we intend to bring customers into contact with the producers of their food and build a relationship between our customers and the food that they eat, but we also intend to create a context through which our neighbors from both sides of this dividing line forge relationships with one another.
The Experimental Station nurtures an array of programs and initiatives that, in turn, nourish and cross-pollinate one another to create a vibrant hub of economic and cultural activity. The Experimental Station has built its programming over the past four years to address a variety of identified local needs. Blackstone Bicycle Works, our first program, has established itself since 2006 not only as the best bike shop on Chicago's South Side, but also the only bike shop that offers almost 150 youth from the underserved Woodlawn neighborhood on the northern border of which we are located the opportunity to work in a retail setting, to earn bikes and accessories as they learn the art and science of bicycle mechanics, to discover the satisfaction of a job well done, to participate in the civic life of a vibrant community, to be safe and free of the pressures of the streets, and to have fun. In May 2008, the Experimental Station launched the 61st Street Farmers Market to bring fresh, organic, and sustainably raised foods from regional producers to the Woodlawn neighborhood and to provide educational opportunities to learn about food preparation, healthy eating, and sustainable agricultural practices. Part of the Experimental Stations Food Culture program, the 61st Street Farmers Market joins a variety of other food initiatives that we foster: Backstory Cafe, the Woodlawn Buying Club (a bulk foods purchasing club), the 61st Street Community Garden, community bread baking, beer brewing, and the Original Fire Dinners supper club. The Invisible Institute program is the Experimental Stations newest undertaking. Directed by Jamie Kalven, the Invisible Institute provides an alternative to the imploding newspaper publishing industry by offering an investigative journalism program dedicated to sustaining investigative and in-depth local reporting in Chicago. The Experimental Station has also built an active events program of readings, performances, conferences, and concerts. Among the events we have hosted are readings by authors Naomi Klein and Thomas Frank, a three-day workshop and performance by the Bread & Puppet Theater, concerts by experimental composer and musician Gene Coleman, the Festival of Democracy, Assata Shakurs Chicago birthday celebration, Chicago Humanities Festival panels and discussions, a year-long series of events and discussions on (Black) culture, politics, and esthetics, Hyde Park Jazz Festival concerts, Kansas City-based Whoop Dee Doo performances, and Tellebration 2008 and 2009. In addition to undertaking our own programming, we offer discounted long- and short-term rent, technological and administrative support, meeting and gathering space, and a broad network of individuals, groups, and organizations. Backstory Caf?, Roots & Shoots (a Jane Goodall Institute program), the Yamaguchi Institute (artist studio), AREA Chicago (for which we are fiscal sponsor), Links Hall, the Public Square, the Renaissance Society, the Coalition for Justice and Respect, the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, the Carnegie Elementary School, the Major Taylor Bicycle Club, and the Hyde Park Community Players are just a few of the organizations that have benefited from Experimental Station resources.
Grants Since 2007:
|2011||Basic Human Needs||$50,000.00|
|2011||Arts & Culture||$15,000.00|
|2010||Arts & Culture||$8,000.00|
|2008||Arts & Culture||$7,500.00|
|2008||Arts & Culture||$7,500.00|
* Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust