I am UIC: An artful escape

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Stony Island Arts Bank. Photo: Abigail Floresca

As the months grow colder and the night comes sooner, the school days are getting more difficult to endure for me. Living close to campus, spending the whole week walking the same paths, taking the same buses, and longingly gazing at the towering skyline from the same vantage point, I start to feel trapped. I start to forget that I live in one of the most brilliant cities on this planet.

That is why I was so excited to hear in one of my classes about the new exhibit open this winter at the Stony Island Arts Bank on the South Side. In honor of the 50th anniversary of Chicago’s chapter of the Black Panther Party, the “ICONIC: BLACK PANTHER,” exhibit features rooms of art from local artists, as well as renowned artists from the movement like Emory Douglas.

I had never before heard of the Stony Island Arts Bank, and I can’t believe I have lived in the city for two years without experiencing it. The building, converted from an old bank on Stony Island Avenue, is now a vibrant space filled with art, media and literature on the second floor. It was renovated ultimately to engage in rich South Side history. The art in the exhibit was powerful and thoughtful, and it reminds me of the dense history that exists in our city. To be mindful of the struggle and resistance against racist policy and oppressed blacks, Latinx, and virtually every minority who has lived in this city, I believe is incredibly vital to learning how to be self-aware in an urban space.

There is so much to learn and appreciate about Chicago, and a great way of starting to do that is through engaging and supporting the art produced by local artists. There is so much more value to a piece than an “aesthetic” for a profile picture; ask questions, dig deeper, find out the context, history, and the background of the artist. I promise you will get so much more out of it. Visit the Stony Island Arts Bank and tell others about it.

Abigail Floresca is a junior majoring in criminology, law and justice with a minor in professional writing. Writing is how she connects, processes, expresses and relates to the rest of the world. Increasingly aware of the power of storytelling in bringing about change and reform, Abigail earnestly seeks to find a way to incorporate a perfect blend of writing and social work within the criminal justice system — she dreams of bringing about a positive change, one story at a time. At UIC, she is involved in campus ministry; conducts research with the criminology, law and justice department; interns with the Chicago Justice Project, and loves exploring new places downtown.