Creative Grounds at Anthony Overton Incubator
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Creative Placemaking Award (2022)
221 E. 49th Street
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In 2013, nearly 50 Chicago Public Schools were closed, primarily concentrated on the West and South Sides—one of them being Anthony Overton Elementary in Bronzeville. Overton was purchased by the Washington Park Development Group and is being transformed into a business and technology incubation center. Borderless Studios, a design firm focused on supporting healthy, vibrant and meaningful communities by demonstrating how design adds value to the built and social environments, has been a key part of the reinvention of Overton through the Creative Grounds Initiative. Through Creative Grounds, Borderless has partnered with the Washington Park Development Group to organize community-led design activation projects at Overton. Community activations are focused on cultivating exchange and collaboration. For the past four years, Overton has hosted dozens of collaborative creative projects including art and design installations, workshops, exhibitions and more recently a mutual aid market. These projects reflect on the history of the school, celebrate its legacy and introduce its renewed identity. Creative Grounds seeks to bring visibility to the challenges and opportunities presented by closed school buildings, while organizing community-led activities as a form of advocacy and collaborative agency to create a space for collective reflection and imagination about the future of social infrastructure in our city. The organization has connected and engaged with hundreds of neighbors and community members including residents, teachers, students, youth, artists and designers, as well as more than 50 local and city-wide organizations. It has supported design interventions, provided a space for experimentation, and broadcast community stories that reflect on the past, present and imagined futures of Bronzeville and its closed schools. "