South Loop crawls with creativity during WAC



Leah Griffith, a sophomore music major, performs during WAC’s Acoustic Kitchen event at HAUS inside the 623 S. Wabash Ave. Building.


The third annual Wabash Arts Corridor Crawl took to the streets of the South Loop and Columbia’s campus Oct. 23 to showcase more than 200 artists, musicians, theatrical performers and dancers during more than 40 scheduled events along Wabash Avenue, Van Buren Street and Roosevelt Road. 

The WAC, an “urban lab for creative expression, innovation and excellence in the arts” is home to eight educational institutions including Columbia, 12 galleries, 14 performance spaces, six major hotels and more than 40 restaurants and businesses, according to the WAC’s website.

Creative bodies in the district and well-known organizations like Chicago Loop Alliance, Willow Chicago, Hilton Hotel and the Jazz Showcase hosted events throughout the WAC.

Columbia also hosted several events that celebrated student work and featured musical performances by students and faculty members. Amoung them were student Programming Board’s Wishes on Wabash, during which people wrote wishes and hung them along Wabash Avenue; Dance Center students’ performances of new dances from hip-hop to African to contemporary; a fashion studies student-hosted showcase of a collection of designer garments; and a cinema art + science student-hosted “Cinema Slapdown” celebrating women in film. 

The WAC Crawl is an excellent metaphor for Columbia’s creative expectations for its students, said Mark Kelly, vice president of Student Success.

“Our goal is to push our students out and have them animate the city,” Kelly said. “[Students] don’t just go to class, but they go to class and that is a pathway to something larger. They create work, and then that work goes out into the world.”

Kelly said the event began in 2013 when the district organized to celebrate the corridor and its strong partnerships.

With the growing number of murals appearing along Wabash Avenue, Kelly said the murals became a focal point of this year’s WAC Crawl, adding it is predicted to have the largest turnout so far. 

Ben Eine, a notable London-based street artist who painted the “Harmony” mural on the wall of the University Center of Chicago, 525 S. State St., spoke to members of the college administration and faculty Oct. 21 about his experiences and Chicago as a place of creativity.

“I painted an amazing wall that has affected people, that will continue to affect people, that has changed people,” Eine said. “I’m now back [in Chicago] talking to students and hopefully giving them a little bit of my wisdom and some of the lessons I learned along the way.”

Kelly announced at the event that Eine will create a 21-story, illuminated mural in the Spring 2016 Semester at 615 S. Wabash Ave., noting that the Wabash Arts Corridor will see the addition of five new murals in the next month, including work from artist duo ASVP and photographer Daryl Schiff.

Jackson Shepard, a sophomore music major, performed Oct. 23 with his experimental hip-hop jazz band Human Bloom at Bar Louie’s contingent to the WAC crawl.

Shepard, the guitarist, vocalist and arranger for the band, which performs covers as well as original material, said it sounded like a great opportunity to showcase the band’s work and collaborate with other Columbia talent. He added it was a good way to network with students and promote Human Bloom, because it is releasing an album soon. 

“It is cool to be able to create a network with different bands and musicians,” Shepard said. “[As musicians], we are all very different stylistically, but we all have a collective mentality that we are all building.”

Monique Doron, a junior design major and director of communications for the   Student Programming Board, said she enjoyed writing wishes on tags for Wishes on Wabash.

“It is really invigorating to have all of this artistic talent around you,” Doron said. “It makes me feel like I am in a great place.”

David Dolak, a senior lecturer in the Science & Mathematics Department and host of Columbia’s monthly “Acoustic Kitchen,” said it is a special experience to be involved in a large art event, especially when it is happening right in the neighborhood.

Dolak and other faculty members opened up the night with a special performance before student musicians and vocalists took the stage to showcase their talents.

“[New performances] are always exciting because sometimes people are really good and you are like, ‘Wow, where have you been hiding?’” Dolak said. “It is nice to have a good evening of live music.”

This year’s WAC crawl ran in conjunction with Columbia’s Parent and Family Weekend and the Alumni Reception and Alumni Day, which all folded into Columbia’s contingent during the Halloween Gathering on the Chicago Cultural Mile Oct. 24.