‘Environmental Concerns’ opens at Experimental Station and Woodlawn

Artwork titled “Looking at Glass Through the Light so It Can Sing” by Alpha Burton, made from charred glass, a television monitor and string, is displayed in the lobby at the Experimental Station, 6100 S. Blackstone Ave. Aaron Gettinger

Staff Writer

A new arts project by Experimental Station, 6100 S. Blackstone Ave., and the William Hill Center for the Arts, 6442 S. Dorchester Ave., opened last week. It features several Chicago and high school artists work at both sites as well as Hyde Park Academy, 6220 S. Stony Island Ave., emphasizing the connections between natural and social environments in Woodlawn.

William Hill created his contemporary art gallery in the backyard of a house he inherited from his grandfather. He has additionally developed the Dorchester Botanical Garden on the southeast corner of 64th Street and Dorchester Avenue and the Woodlawn Botanical Nature Center at Hyde Park Academy.

Youth who work at the Blackstone Bicycle Works, next door to Experimental Station, created several projects outside of it, including a sculpture installation made from discarded bicycle parts, outside of it.

Visual artist Alpha Bruton, who maintains a studio in Bronzeville, also used discarded parts for her works at the Experimental Station lobby: “pieces of pieces” that Hill and Experimental Station assistant director Matthew Searle gave her.

Bruton said her interest in found materials comes from her childhood. Her father was a garbageman, and she would reconstruct things like puppet theaters from what he brought home. Today, she often encourages students to do the same, with hammers, nails “and the ability to just go for it.”

She said she meant for her work on display at Experimental Station to have an environmental focus on the duality between the urban and natural environment — construction and deconstruction; taking discarded objects found on the street and making them beautiful.

Norman W. Long contributed audio recordings. He said his recordings at Experimental Station compliment the visual art there but also function as teasers for his guided “soundwalk,” an otherwise silent “guided listening tour” on Saturday, Oct. 6, at 12:30 p.m. (departing from Dorchester Avenue and 61st Street) and his talk at the City Bureau–3rd Coast International Audio Festival at the Smart Museum of Art, 5550 S. Greenwood Ave., on Thursday, Oct. 11, at 5:30 p.m.

“What I’m doing is getting people to open up and listen to what’s around them at each given moment when they’re walking through and to be mindful of the different sounds that make up this community,” he said.

He said noise from public transportation, students of all ages, social gatherings and the South Campus Chiller Plant, 6053 S. Woodlawn Ave., are evocative of Woodlawn — as are, at the turn from summer to fall, sounds of insects, birds and wind in the trees.

“It’s not just completely urban,” said Long, mentioning the gardens that are hosting the project.

At his gallery, Hill said he wanted to consider environmental concerns at both a local and world level, from climate change to sustainability. He stressed that learning about these issues is a function of citizenship.

“We want the community to be informed about these different processes and how these processes make a statement about the environment in which we live,” Hill said.

“Environmental Concerns” is open through Nov. 18.