Hilton partnership furthers Wabash Arts Corridor

By Tyler Eagle

Columbia and Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan Ave., have partnered to display student art on the back of the hotel.

The partnership is part of the Wabash Arts Corridor project, an initiative dedicated to transforming the seven blocks worth of buildings on South Wabash Avenue, between Congress Parkway and Roosevelt Road, into a gallery of student work, according to Mark Kelly, vice president of Student Affairs.

Kelly said he selected the stretch of Wabash Avenue as part of the Wabash Arts Corridor several years ago because of its proximity to academic buildings and the amount of student traffic on the street.

“Wabash Avenue is the spine of our campus; that’s really where students live,” Kelly said. “Fifteen years ago, there was an anonymous feel. It didn’t feel like a campus. It felt like a sad, urban environment.”

Kelly said the college hopes the partnership with Hilton Chicago will help build momentum for

the project.

The college will present images to the hotel’s management team, which will then approve selections for installation. The images will be produced by the spring 2013 Fashion Photography and Fashion Styling class, instructed by husband and wife John and Andrea McArthur, adjunct professors in the

Photography Department.

According to a representative of Hilton Chicago, the management team is excited to see what the students of Columbia can offer.

“We hope that through this partnership we are able to foster creativity among the students as well as show support for Columbia,” said Angela Braswell, manager of media relations at Hilton Chicago. “We very much look forward to our exterior being beautified by this talented group and bring a sense of place to our South Loop location.”

Stephen DeSantis, director of Academic Initiatives at Columbia, said he hopes the partnership will act as a catalyst for attracting local businesses and organizations to partner with the college.

“I think the Wabash Arts Corridor is one of the most amazing initiatives at Columbia,” DeSantis said. “The opportunity for our students to get their works out in the public and get Columbia to engage in the community is an

incredible opportunity.”

This is not the first time Columbia has partnered with other businesses, according to DeSantis, who is involved with the Wabash Arts Corridor initiative and its two

previous projects.

The first completed project of the Wabash Arts Corridor was a mural painted by 2005 Columbia alumnus Nino Rodriguez, located at George’s Cocktail Lounge, 646 S. Wabash Ave. As reported by The Chronicle  Sept. 10, 2012, the mural was unveiled as part of the Columbia Crawl in September 2012.

DeSantis said the mural marks the initiative’s first partnership between local businesses and the college. Cacciatore Real Estate, the owner of George’s Cocktail Lounge, approached the college and offered the building for the project, he said.

The Papermaker’s Garden, the initiative’s second ongoing project, shares space with Columbia’s bike lot at Wabash Avenue and 8th Street and serves as a cross-departmental, interdisciplinary green initiative, DeSantis said. According to him, the primary goal of the garden is to grow fibers that can be harvested to make paper.

“There is a lot of empty space, ugly brick walls that we can do a lot to with our students as far as permanent and temporary installations,” DeSantis said.

“[The Wabash Arts Corridor] is kind of like an open-aired gallery,” he said.

According to Kelly, Columbia will host an open meeting in February at the Hilton Chicago including other local institutions with Wabash locations, such as Roosevelt University, East-West University and local businesses, like Buddy Guy’s Legends and the Elephant Room, to unveil the idea of the Wabash Arts Corridor. Kelly said the plan is to foster support to make the Wabash Arts Corridor a

community initiative.