West-side arts center welcomes all

By HermineBloom

For 24-year-old Andrea Sherry, the nature of the donation-based community arts organization, Rumble Arts Center, 3413 W. North Ave., allows her to try everything from knitting and drawing to martial arts. Despite having never tried hip-hop dance before, Sherry said she’s likely to experiment this summer because the community center’s classes are extremely accessible.

In other words, pursuing a new artistic hobby at the 2-year-old nonprofit Rumble Arts Center is relatively easy because they employ a donation-based class system and their classes are mostly ongoing. This summer, the community center will launch a new class schedule and continue to reach out to anyone in the underserved, yet culturally rich, Humboldt Park neighborhood with a variety of artistic interests.

Sherry, who helps Rumble Arts Center with tech support while taking a break from DeVry University, said the center benefits those who simply cannot afford typical art programs in the city.

“A lot of classes at other places around the city are $120 for six weeks and I can’t afford that, but I can help these guys out with tech support and donate five or 10 bucks when I can for a class,” Sherry said.

Bree Johnson, administrative assistant and programming director for Rumble Arts Center, echoed Sherry’s praise and added that classes with official start dates and end dates are prohibitive for people who have a regular work schedule.

“People can walk in and out, they can attend classes when they can, they’re always free to observe or take part,” Johnson said of some of the new classes soon to be offered, such as an MCing class and a Cuban-flavored Latin dance mix class.

Two years ago, Rumble Arts Center Director Brook Woolf founded the multicultural center after living in Humboldt Park. Initially, a team consisting of Woolf’s family, friends and supporters designed the center, which is complete with hardwood floors and a professionally lit main gallery space.

Woolf rallied two full-time staff members, Johnson and co-director Edwin Perry, who will be replaced by Cristina Gutierrez on account of Perry moving out of state.

Traditional classes at the center range from illustration and puppetry to African dance and yoga throughout the week, Johnson said. Classes to be held this summer tentatively include, but are not limited to, puppetry, footworking, mixed media art for teens, yoga for beginners and pop ’n’ lock dance classes.

The center’s mission largely has to do with instructors who almost always volunteer to teach, which is not exclusive to this summer.

“Sometimes teachers approach us, sometimes they are volunteers who are inspired and they have something that they’ve always wanted to teach or we get college students who are interested in education,” Johnson said.

Admittedly cheaper than any other arts center she’s aware of, Johnson said Rumble’s pricing guidelines vary. They’ve allowed people use the space for free on occasion if they felt it was for a worthy cause. However, renting out the space to other organizations is an important source of income for Rumble Arts Center.

“Arts funding has been slashed so significantly that many community centers and types of nonprofit projects have had to find additional sources of income like running their miniature businesses through the center to bring in money,” Johnson said.

Leida Villegas, manager and founder of the footwork dance group, FootworKINGz, decided to teach her first public dance class at Rumble Arts Center at the end of March.

FootworKINGz is Chicago’s only professional ensemble that teaches a street style dance called footwork, originating in Chicago out of the house music and juke music scene, she said.

“It’s a lower body style, generally with leg and feet movements and executed at 140-160 beats per minute,” Villegas said.

Having grown up in Humboldt Park and later befriending Woolf, Villegas said it seemed only natural for Rumble Arts Center to serve as their rehearsal space.

The public dance class is one that Villegas hopes to continue in other spaces after beginning to teach at Rumble Arts Center. She said they do teach through the program After School Matters at Chicago Public Schools, but that program is not public.

Johnson hopes in years to come, artists who can’t find work in their field will come to the center to do what they care

about doing.

“We’re working on reaching out to individual artists and groups locally now, but I would love to see more collaboration between different areas of Chicago,” Johnson said.

For information about times and dates of classes this summer, visit RumbleArts.com.