Approximately 15,000 years ago, long before they were developed into the neighborhoods and communities we currently know, the land of Beverly and Morgan Park was an expanse of glaciers. As time went on, the glaciers slowly gave form to the “highest hill in Chicago,” later to be known as Beverly and Morgan Park.
On September 17, the Beverly Arts Center opened its doors to the architectural exhibit Elevation: The Rise of Beverly/Morgan Park. Located on the second floor of the BAC in the Jack Simmerling Gallery, the Elevation exhibit highlights the architecture that makes Beverly and Morgan Park what they are, and showcases the work of architects that helped create the buildings that have shaped the community. Many renowned architects had their work displayed within the exhibit, including including Frank Lloyd Wright, H.H. Waterman, Walter Burley Griffin, G.W. Maher, John & Murray Hetherington, Keck and Keck, Ed Dart and many others.
Architectural photographers also provided the population with photographs of these buildings to view. One such photographer I just have to throw a shout-out to is Mati Maldre, who is the uncle of Peter Kreten, the Director of Student Media here at Saint Xavier University. Kreten is my boss, yes, but I promise that he didn’t force me to include that little tidbit in this article.
You can see and admire Maldre’s black-and-white photography at the exhibit as well! Beverly and Morgan Park were chosen to be a part of the 2017 Architecture Biennial, an international event that helps to celebrate the work of architects around the world. These exhibitions draw in visitors from all around the globe to study the communities and the structures that form them, and they usually center their exhibitions around a different theme each year. This year, the theme for the biennial is “Making New History.”
While the Chicago Cultural Center serves as the main hub of the Chicago Architecture Biennial, there are multiple satellite locations for the public to visit for exhibits such as Elevation. These locations include the DePaul Art Museum, Hyde Park Art Center, DuSable Museum of African American History, National Museum of Mexican Art, and National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture.
James Gorski, an architect at Bureau of Architecture and Design, and Lee Bey, a photographer and architecture critic, were the driving forces behind the creation of Elevation. They partnered together to create and submit a proposal to have the Beverly Arts Center be a satellite location for the biennial, which was granted. I had the fortune of briefly conducting a phone interview with Gorski about his contributions to the biennial and the background of the creation of Elevation. “We had a three-pronged idea when we began,” Gorski stated. “Geological development, real estate development, and the actual architecture.”
Taking the historical and geographical value of the ancient glacial structures that used to shape the area, the introduction of the Rock Island commuter rail line, and to continuous surge of upwards mobility within the communities, Gorski was inspired by the separate theme of “elevation” for Beverly and Morgan Park. “We had, once again, this three-pronged idea,” Gorski stated. “The first one was the overall concept of elevation in the geological sense; these are the highest points of the city, and like I said, this area used to be a glacier roughly fifteen-thousand years ago. The second was the actual architecture itself, of course, but the third idea was people and immigration. You know, we have citizens that would migrate here so that they could ‘elevate’ their status in society and have opportunities to become better.”
Having come up with the concept of the exhibit prior to learning the 2017 theme, Making New History, Gorski’s last point has since changed. “Once I learned about the biennial’s theme this year, the last part was actually switched to focusing on the future of Beverly and Morgan Park, and how we can continue to improve and elevate the community,” Gorski said.
There were several people of interest whose contributions were heavily emphasized by Gorski, and I myself want to ensure that they receive the recognition they deserve for their work.
“Lee Bey was initially going to be the photographer for the event, but unfortunately had to drop out kind of late in the game,” Gorski said. “We actually brought on Rebecca Healy last minute, but she took and provided us with amazing photographs, especially with the short time frame she was given; her style of photography was incredible to showcase as well. Edris Hoover of the Ridge Historical Society assisted with the research of the project and provided historical content to the exhibit. Jorge Mauricio Casian, an architecture intern, was an asset in the creation of the exhibit itself. Andrew Horin of Plateau Properties was a big help with the installation of the models that went into the exhibit. And I also want to make sure that the folks over at the Beverly Arts Center get recognition for all of their help in the duration of making this exhibit happen,” Gorski said.
There are multiple events that are linked to the Elevation exhibit. On October 7, the BAC hosted the Beverly Art Walk, which showcased artwork that Saint Xavier’s own art students created.
“What really dominated the Art Walk was students’ work in digital art and graphic design,” stated Cesar Torres, Xavierite’s Deputy Editor-in-Chief who was in attendence at the Beverly Art Walk. I had a lot of friends who had their work displayed. I wish I had taken pictures of it all.” One of the highlights of the night seen within the abundance of students’ artistic creations was, according to Torres, a mural entitled “Bad Eggs.” “It depicted people like Trump and Hitler, and it was mostly centered around these distasteful figures, these less than appealing figures of society. It was really interesting to see.”
There was also a section in which students were able to construct their own 3-D sculptures. SXU’s radio station, WXAV, was broadcasting from the Beverly Art Walk. They interviewed professors and students at the site. One such individual that they interviewed was Nathan Peck, a digital art professor at Saint Xavier.
Xavierite’s Sports Editor Mike Rankin states, “We talked to Peck about how happy he was to see the influence that Saint Xavier and its students had to continue to make the Beverly Arts Center relevant within the community. I was particularly inspired by a student named Chris Thact who has taken the initiative to use art as a method of communication, and to see how far he was able to overcome all the challenges in his life. The experience at the Beverly Arts Center allowed me to get in communication with Thact. It would be something that I wouldn’t have been able to do if I didn’t make the trip.”
The Beverly Arts Center is also hosting two events in relation to architecture and the impact it has on the local community. The first event is a panel discussion called “How Arts Affect Neighborhoods,” and it will be held at the Beverly Arts Center on October 19 from 7:30PM-9:00PM. This lecture/panel will bring together the satellite locations of the Chicago Architecture Biennial to discuss the impact of the arts and how it has affected the culture of their neighborhoods. Hopefully, this event will draw attention to what can be done to further improve the community. Gorski will also be in attendance as a part of the panel.
The next event is Elevation: The Rise of Beverly/Morgan Park, Biennial Teen Studio. It will be held within the Simmerling Gallery on November 18, from 1PM-4PM. This event will provide interested students the opportunity to work with the Chicago Architecture Foundation Education staff and an architect/designer as they complete certain challenges associated with learning the concepts of architecture and graphic design.
There will be an introduction to architecture design challenge, and students will be able to observe a building outside, sketch, learn bubble diagrams, and create a small 3-D model of their chosen design. For any teen student that meets the qualifications and wishes to attend this event, which is free of charge, I invite you to apply within the BAC’s website.
I’ve never truly given architecture much thought before, but after visiting the Elevation exhibit briefly last week and being impressed by what I saw, I wholeheartedly invite everyone to check it out before the exhibit ends on January 7, 2018.
There is still ample time to go to the BAC and observe the value of what makes Beverly and Morgan Park unique! The Beverly Arts Center is located at 2407 West 111th Street. Once again, the exhibit is upstairs in the Simmerling Gallery, and it’s open to the public.