Crusader staff report
It’s time to party at the DuSable Museum of African American History and Culture.
With attendance up and with a shakeup on its board, the house that Margaret Burroughs built aims to construct a swank, outdoor event space that officials hope will be a money-maker and lure more patrons to the museum at 740 East 56th Pl.
On Monday, July 17, work began on transforming an asphalt lot into an outdoor space that will host receptions, weddings and corporate events. The new area will be approximately 15,000 square feet and will be located along the eastern edge of the Roundhouse.
The stairs at the Roundhouse basement will be rebuilt. The museum also plans to put in grass, flowers and permeable pavers, and ornamental fencing will be installed along the south border.
The project is expected to be completed in time for the Chicago Architectural Biennial in September.
Patrons can enter the space from 57th Drive along the north, and Cottage Grove on the southeastern edge. As part of this project, truck access will be routed to Cottage Grove.
The new changes were announced by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and the Chicago Park District. They said DuSable is expected to serve as one of six “neighborhood anchor sites” during the Chicago Architectural Biennial (CAB) in September.
The Biennial will coincide with EXPO Chicago, Navy Pier’s annual art and design convention. CAB will feature 141 participants from 20 countries at the Chicago Cultural Center and neighborhood anchor sites around Chicago. They include the Beverly Arts Center in the Beverly community, the DePaul Art Museum in Lincoln Park, the DuSable Museum of African American History in Washington Park, the Hyde Park Art Center in Hyde Park, the National Museum of Mexican Art in Pilsen, and the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture in Humboldt Park.
The city will contribute $500,000 for DuSable’s new event space project, and $82,440 will come from the park district, which owns the museum.
“This new outdoor event space at the DuSable Museum will be a unique location to celebrate special occasions in Washington Park,” said Mayor Emanuel. “As the nation’s oldest African American Museum, DuSable is the ideal place for patrons to come together.”
The new event space will be the latest change under the leadership of its CEO Perri Irmer, who was hired in 2015 to revamp and boost the nation’s oldest Black museum’s profile and attendance. This year, the board of trustees underwent a major shakeup with Chance the Rapper; his father, Ken Bennett, and physician Eric Whitaker, joining the organization.
With an annual budget of $4.1 million, the DuSable rebounded with a big jump in visitors as interest in Black history continues to grow with the new Smithsonian Black Museum in Washington, D.C.
Attendance at the DuSable was up 15 percent, according to the Museum in the Park (MIP), a group of publicly owned and operated prominent museums and institutions managed by the Chicago Park District. According to MIP 115,364 people visited the DuSable last year.
Out of 15 Chicago museums and attractions, the DuSable was one of four institutions that posted double-digit gains in 2016.