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Foundation gets $1.6M to redevelop vacant school in Greater Grand Crossing

Rebuild Foundation, the arts, education and cultural development organization committed to transforming urban communities, on Tuesday, April 30, announced a $1.6 million grant award from Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Neighborhood Opportunity Fund to revitalize and repurpose the shuttered St. Laurence school into an arts and business incubator in the Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood.

The 40,000 square foot school will be transformed to include community spaces for art programming and art skill training and to provide artist work space. The revitalized St. Laurence School will accommodate varying kinds of artistic practices and will include a guild build school offering training and apprenticeships in painting, drawing, printmaking, milling, wood craftsmanship and product modeling for youth and adults.

“We are thrilled to receive this impactful grant from Mayor Emanuel’s Neighborhood Opportunity Fund,” said Theaster Gates, artist, activist and Executive Director of Rebuild Foundation. “This grant enhances our ability to support artists and artisans with important space, training and a variety of unique resources that do not currently exist anywhere else in our community, all while preserving and revitalizing a meaningful cultural asset right here in our neighborhood.”

The incubator will also house Tool, Tech and Fab labs, resources not often available to community members, and will enhance neighbors’ skills and employability, as well as artists’ craft and scope of work.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Neighborhood Opportunity Fund leverages development in and around the Chicago Loop to generate funds that will catalyze investment in Chicago’s underserved neighborhoods. Grants are awarded to projects that identify a gap in the services or goods provided in a neighborhood, enhance community wealth and build stronger neighborhoods.

“As one part of Chicago grows, we all grow together — that’s what the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund is all about,” Mayor Emanuel said. “Whether it’s coffee shops, black box theaters or family businesses, these investments on the South, Southwest and West sides are not only creating jobs and positive economic change, it’s also providing opportunities in neighborhoods where it’s been missing for far too long.”

Shuttered in 2002 and located in the South Side’s Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood, the St. Laurence School sat vacant for over a decade before being purchased by Rebuild Foundation/Space Fund. The St. Laurence School is one of Rebuild Foundation’s many projects aimed at transforming urban communities through neighborhood revitalization and repurposing forgotten civic assets into cultural ame ities for the community.

The St. Laurence project is also part of Reimagining the Civic Commons, a national initiative aimed at revitalizing public spaces and connecting community members to civic assets. Reimagining the Civic Commons is a project made possible by the support of The JPB Foundation, Knight Foundation, The Kresge Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation.

Rebuild Foundation will recruit and work with a variety of neighborhood partners in the arts, nonprofit and business fields to provide a range of entrepreneurial training programs tailored to individuals working in creative industries.

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