By Sebastiana Smith
The Beverly Arts Center (BAC) is all about emphasizing the ‘s’ in arts, and they’ve made huge strides in diversifying what visitors can expect to experience when visiting.
“One of the things that most excite me about being at the BAC is looking at the history of this place and seeing that even though this building has been here for 20 years, there’s still tremendous opportunity for growth. The mission of the center is something that hasn’t truly been fulfilled in the neighborhood, so creating access to programs that are diverse and represent all sorts of voices is part of our key strategy towards building a space on the south side that people here in this neighborhood can claim as their own. We’d love to see ourselves becoming a regional arts destination on the south side of Chicago,” said Kevin Pease, BAC Artistic Director.
The BAC wants to make sure that there’s space for all art disciplines, their programming ranges from tap performances by the Chicago Human Rhythm Project, chamber music by the Lincoln String Quartet, and notable theater productions, but on the second Friday of each month, visual arts have center stage.
The Second Friday series is a partnership between the BAC, Beverly Area Arts Alliance (The Alliance), and Saint Xavier University (SXU), to bring free exciting new art and music to the BAC’s Simmerling Gallery on the second Friday of every month.
The goal of the Second Friday series is to incite curiosity and celebrate visual arts. The BAC reached out to Nathan Peck, professor of Art and Design and chairman of the Art and Design department at Saint Xavier University, and Sal Campbell, co-founder and lead curator for The Alliance, who are both curators of the Second Friday series.
“The idea was that we would help the art center in creating an audience for the gallery even though they had had some wonderful shows, they just hadn’t been well attended, and people maybe weren’t looking or expecting these shows, so they missed them,” Campbell explains. “We wanted to create some consistency and some regularity just to help build an audience because it’s a wonderful art center, and it’s a beautiful gallery space.”
When asked what Peck and Campbell enjoyed most about creating space for people to gather and interact with art, Peck immediately reflected on celebrating young artists the same way others celebrated him and his artwork. He values offering opportunities for young artists to experience what it’s like to start off as a student searching for a creative voice to eventually being the star for the night as a featured artist at an art exhibition.
Campbell added, “Chicago has such a vibrant artistic community. I enjoy doing shows that have a mixture of local Beverly/Morgan Park artists as well as other artists from across the city, it’s a reminder to the broader artistic community that we’re here, we’re doing great work, and we’re a part of the conversation.”
It’s clear that a priority in this partnership is offering diversity. “Bringing together communities from our region of the city trying to put those artists in the same room that’s the bread, that’s the big consistent picture, bringing together people of all ages, of all ethnicities, and all different cultural backgrounds. Bringing together stylistic stuff from all different ends of the spectrum, the consistency is sort of our region and the idea of a variety of voices,” Peck said.
They are committed to collaborating with diverse artists to display their work and invite artists to curate. “I like seeing what other folks can come up with and working with them, so it’s fun to sort of be the curator of curators. It keeps it interesting, and it takes the conversations in different directions,” said Campbell.
The visual art experience doesn’t stop in the Simmerling Gallery, throughout the halls of the BAC you will see student artwork from SXU, and other emerging artists’ work.
Nathan Peck will be the lead curator for the Second Friday exhibition Black Prints, featuring a selection of prints by young African American digital artist. The opening reception will be held on Fri., June 9, 6 to 8 p.m. The Second Friday current exhibit features artwork by recent graduates from SXU and several other local universities.
There are a lot of exciting things happening at the BAC, but on the second Friday of each month, you can always count on seeing new artwork and listening to live music in the Simmerling Gallery.
Information about the BAC’s Second Friday series is also available at thebeverlyartscenter.com or beverlyarts.org.