In 2018, Free Street opened the Storyfront in Back of the Yards, a tiny storefront theater at 43rd and Ashland. This space has been home to two plays (Ricardo Gamboa’s Meet Juanito Doe, which ran for a whole year, and MATA: Make America Great Again), concerts, storytelling workshops, the Hood Moms project, youth theater classes and, when COVID hit, a free 24 food pantry serving our community. So when the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) and the League of Chicago Theaters commissioned us to be part of their Community Asset Mapping project, we were thrilled to partner!
The League and DCASE wanted to know more about theater and performance in historically divested communities in Chicago, in hopes that more information about community assets and needs could be used to inform future planning around programming and investment. We wanted the opportunity to collect information that would better help the city support our communities, and we also welcomed the chance to prove what we knew all along: communities like Back of the Yards haven’t often gotten a lot of arts funding, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t a vibrant home for the arts!
Free Street chose to gather information in 5 neighborhoods: Back of the Yards, Brighton Park, McKinley Park. Gage Park and Englewood. These are all intersecting communities near the Storyfront, and we wanted to celebrate the creativity of our neighbors. We did bilingual community workshops, many individual interviews, surveys, and lots of walking around/Googling. This all played out during the most isolated months of the pandemic, so we think it is important to keep gathering information.
What you’ll find on this site is a map of everything we found out, and an opportunity to add your own information. We hope that this serves as a helpful resource and a celebration of the many ways our communities work to create beautiful experiences for each other!
Free Street Theater Artistic Director
Karla Estela Rivera
Director of Education
Storyfront Community Liaison
Project Coordinators, Research Phase
Donna Gary & Cristal Alba
Karla Estela Rivera
Gallery & Website Coordinators
Katrina Dion & Elizabeth Nungaray
Website & Map Design
Map Data Entry
PROJECT COMPLETED IN PARTNERSHIP WITH
Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, The League of Chicago Theatres, & The Chicago Park District
To all of our workshop participants, individuals who filled out the survey, and those who spent time with us on the phone or through email - this map is a product of all of your love and time spent with us.