South Chicago and Bowen High School
My interest in the SITE/ENVIRONMENT/COMMUNITY class is a product of a previous class, LAND/TERRITORY/FIELD, also with Drea Howenstein. In the L/T/F course, I focused my research on the redevelopment of the area formerly occupied by the USX Southworks Steel Mill in the South Chicago neighborhood. The area has received much attention recently as bold, large-scale redevelopment will soon begin, turning Southworks into “Chicago Lakeside.” (See a video advertising the project) The development project’s facebook page is maintained by the developer, McCaffery Interests, and contains resources and information on the project.
While researching the area, the questions that lingered with me pertained to the community surrounding the site. South Chicago suffered major economic decline following the mill’s closing. How will the redevelopment effect current residents? How are their needs being addressed? What are their needs?
Through opportunities presented by the class, I visited the classroom of a Bowen High School Art Teacher, Bert Stabler. In engaging with his students and asking them about their relationship with their communities, personal histories, and built environment, my assumptions about the area were challenged, though one constant and overriding theme permeated each discussion: gang violence.
How will redevelopment effect a Bowen student? How will redevelopment effect gang violence across South Chicago? What can be done to engage students creatively to raise awareness about the issues facing their community, both their larger South Chicago community and their smaller Bowen High community? These are questions that I am pursuing and, hopefully, answering.