“Elevation: The Rise of Beverly/Morgan Park,” a major exhibition that opens on Sunday, Sept. 17, at the Beverly Arts Center (BAC), 2407 W. 111th St., captures how the impressive elevation of the highest hill in Chicago came to be, and how it continues to inspire the architecture and culture of the community.
The exhibit is the central focus of the BAC’s contribution to the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial, a citywide exploration of how the past, present and future converge to create Chicago’s neighborhoods. The Biennial runs mid-September through December, with the Chicago Cultural Center as the central location, and several anchor sites—including the BAC—that will offer a variety of programming around the theme “Make New History.”
The inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial, held in 2015, was an international event developed by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. This year’s event brings the focus out into Chicago’s neighborhoods. It is the largest architecture and design exhibition in North America.
The BAC’s selection as an anchor site provides a well-deserved opportunity to showcase the neighborhood.
“Beverly/Morgan Park is arguably the most architecturally significant residential neighborhood in the city,” said architect James Gorski, founding principal of Bureau of Architecture and Design and Beverly/Morgan Park resident. Gorski is the visionary talent behind the “Elevation” exhibit at the BAC.
Using large architectural installations, maps and photographs, “Elevation” will illustrate how massive glaciers literally shaped the community that, millions of years later, provided an inspiring palate for renowned architects including Frank Lloyd Wright, H.H. Waterman, Walter Burley Griffin, G. W. Maher, Edward Dart and many others.
Gorski worked closely with Rebecca Healy, also of Beverly/Morgan Park, who has photographed more than 60 local buildings, capturing the artistry of the architectural designs in the context of how today’s community has evolved from its historical roots.
Assisted by volunteers at Ridge Historical Society, 10621 S. Seeley Ave., Gorski researched the earliest days of the area, finding information about the path of the glacier that created the Blue Island Ridge, the history of the area’s early native American residents and the influx of the pioneers who first built log cabins, and the profound influence of the architects and home builders who, following the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, were so attracted to the hilly, rustic area just 30 minutes from the city on the new Rock Island commuter train.
Mauricio Caslan, a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago who works with Gorski at his architecture firm, helped to design the exhibit installations. Andy Horin, of Plateau Properties, helped Gorski build them. Main Street Beverly blogger Jeff Danna provided ideas based on his quest to foster urban walkability and connectedness in residential and commercial areas.
Exhibition visitors will be pivotal in the “Make New History” component of the Biennial at the BAC. Through a variety of programs, they will be asked to share their ideas for how Beverly/Morgan Park may look and function in the future.
The BAC’s Chicago Architecture Biennial programs and events officially kick off with the unveiling of the elevation themed mural by Elaine Miller in the city parking lot at 95th Street and Longwood Drive on Sunday, Sept. 10, 10 a.m. The mural was commissioned by the BAC as a gift to the community, and funded by a grant from the Chicago Architecture Biennial.
The “Elevation” exhibition will open to the general public on Sept. 17, from 2 to 4 p.m., in the Simmerling Gallery at the BAC. In addition to the expansive installation and art in the gallery, the Biennial exhibits in other BAC gallery spaces will feature watercolors of neighborhood institutions by artist Judie Anderson and architectural photographs by Mati Maldre from his comprehensive documentation of Beverly/Morgan Park architecture for an exhibit at the Chicago Architecture Foundation in1986.
During the Beverly Art Walk on Saturday, Oct. 7, BAC Biennial visitors can enjoy hands-on activities for kids that include building a Lego city and creating posters of what Beverly/Morgan Park will look like in the future.
On Thursday, Oct. 19, at 7:30 p.m., the BAC will host a panel discussion on how the arts affect neighborhoods with the Chicago Architecture Biennial south side anchor sites, Hyde Park Art Center, DuSable Museum and National Museum of Mexican Art.
Planned programs also include a teen studio workshop on Saturday, Nov. 18, and ongoing activities.
For more information on local Biennial events and programs, call the BAC at (773) 445-3838 or visit beverlyartcenter.org. For information on citywide activities for the Biennial, visit chicagoarchitecturebiennial.org.