By ALLISON MATYUS
A new arts-focused festival is coming to Hyde Park on Friday, Nov. 18, to Sunday, Nov. 20.
Eric Williams, owner of The Silver Room, 1506 E. 53rd St., is the creator of the CONNECT Arts Festival, which he said stemmed from the successful Silver Room Block Party this summer.
Williams said he was asked to throw another block party, and was inspired by unused space in Downtown Hyde Park to make something happen.
“I was walking past Starbucks on 53rd Street and saw an empty space next to it and I thought, ‘How can I connect art to these empty spaces and use these empty buildings for something?’” he said.
With the help of sponsorship from the University of Chicago, Williams will be transforming three currently vacant storefronts into vibrant gallery and interaction spaces, each offering a different and unique experience.
The space at 1538 E. 53rd St. will be a “collaboration gallery” between the Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 S. Cornell Ave., the DuSable Museum of African American History, 740 E. 56th Pl., and well-known artists from Chicago.
“Each building will hold a distinct gallery space with a different focus,” Williams said.
A “creation gallery” will be located at 1456 E. 53rd St., which will focus on product design such as 3D printing, fashion design and hands-on projects.
The “community gallery” at 1520 S. Harper Ct., will showcase “Permanent Record: Chicago Hip Hop Kulture,” featuring various elements of hip-hop and street art, specifically from the ‘90s.
About 100 local artists from Chicago and the South Side will be featured during CONNECT. DJs, painters, designers, performers, filmmakers, sculptors and the like will have the chance to show their passion to the public.
“I think that there are great artists everywhere, but part of the problem is there is no space to show it,” Williams said. “The point of [CONNECT] to me is to put a spotlight on the people in Chicago.”
Artists selling their work during the event will receive 100 percent of the proceeds.
Local businesses on the 53rd Street corridor will be involved in the event as well, having their own promotions and deals during the three-day festival and hanging locally made art inside of their storefronts.
Harper Theatre, 5238 S. Harper Ave., will be hosting a film festival as part of CONNECT. The Silver Room will hold special events throughout the weekend too.
Williams said that just like this summer’s Block Party, he is trying get people to enjoy their own neighborhood.
“I want to put a spotlight on Hyde Park…not just for the people who live here but for the people outside of it as well,” he said. “We should be able to celebrate our neighborhood and not have to go downtown in order to see something cool.”
CONNECT will be free and open to the public. The event is Friday, Nov. 18, from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 19, from noon to 10 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 20, from noon to 5 p.m. For more information, visit connecthydepark.com.