Bookstore brings cultural heritage to Hyde Park

Chris Salmon, general manager of BING Art Books, said the store has not had many patrons yet, other than Nov. 7 when books went on sale, and it will take them some time to build up traffic.


Hyde Park, long noted for its bookstores, is now host to a new one—BING Books, 307 E. Garfield Blvd.—devoted to bringing to the neighborhood art books that are of unusual quality and inventory, according to the store’s website.

Since its Oct. 22 grand opening, BING has hosted events like film screenings put on by Black Cinema House and provided a comfortable setting for locals to browse and inspect the glossy pages of a wide array of books that can be read in the store or purchased.

According to the store’s website, the collection of books at the store is a rotating one that is “fueled by book acquisition opportunities.”

“It’s a vision of a reading room/bookstore,” said Chris Salmon, general manager of BING Art Books. “We want people to come in, spend some time here, be exposed to things they aren’t usually exposed to in this area and, if they want to bring [books] home with them, they can.”

Salmon said the store will host events such as musical performances, film screenings, lectures and public conversations and will feature a wine bar that will likely open in a few months. 

The bookstore is the brainchild of Theaster Gates, a professor in the Department of Visual Art and director of the Arts + Public Life initiative at the University of Chicago, and Hamza Walker, who curated most of the books in the store’s collection, Salmon said.

“They were looking at [Walker’s] personal library, and [Gates] asked, ‘How do I get these books? How are they accessible?’ [Walker’s] response was a lot of them aren’t accessible,” Salmon said. “That’s when the wheels started turning in both of their minds about creating this space where things that are expensive, or just unattainable due to scarcity, [are available for] people to come [read] even if they can’t afford to buy them.”

BING sits on a block of buildings owned and rented out by the U of C, said Isis Ferguson, program manager of the Arts + Public Life Place Lab team. Ferguson added that Gates rents the spaces for the Currency Exchange Cafe, 305 E. Garfield Blvd., as well as BING Art Books, from the university.

Naomi Miller, operations and administrative manager of the Arts + Public Life Place Lab team, explained that Arts + Public Life is part of the U of C’s UChicago Arts Department that is headed by Gates. She added the program’s purpose is to give arts and culture a presence and make it available in the neighborhood.

“The programming is an access point,” Miller said. “Maybe you do not think of yourself as someone who would go into a bookstore, but you really want to hear this musician. That program will bring you into the space, and maybe you end up discovering something you never expected.”

Ferguson said the store hopes to have more than “accidental visitors” in the near future and have people coming from both near and far to attend their programming events and to read.

“These [programs and books] used to be a larger part of the cultural heritage, and things have moved in more of a direction of day-to-day survival,” Salmon said. “The thinking is that this sort of place fits in extremely well in a lot of areas in the city, and this is asking the question: ‘Why doesn’t it fit here?’”

Ferguson said the store asks larger questions about what residents want to see in their neighborhood, and what amenities they want to have there.

“It speaks to this historic district that’s had a lot of black cultural life all throughout the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s, so I think it speaks to the heritage, but we’re also talking about where we can look to move forward,” Ferguson said.

BING Art Books is open Tuesday–Saturday from 12–7 p.m. More information is available at and