As of January 1, 2016, Gapers Block has ceased publication. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions over the past 12-plus years. 

TODAY

Saturday, November 18

Gapers Block
Search

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr


A/C
« Chicago Improv Festival April 19-25 Point Break Live! Makes a Splash in Chicago »

Feature Wed Mar 31 2010

Rumble Arts Center's Effect is Felt in Humboldt Park

[Editor's note: This article was submitted by freelance writer Thea Liberty Nichols.]

As its logo suggests, Rumble Arts Center's name is taken from a specialized trait of elephants — the contact rumble. Used like Morse code, the elephant's system of rumbling the ground with their feet sends out low frequency signals that reach other elephants miles away. It's become a metaphor for the way Director Brook Wolfe hopes word about Rumble Arts travels, radiating out from their North Avenue epicenter to other friendly, like-minded listeners across the city.

Rumble's mission as an all-ages, donation-based multicultural community arts center has expressed itself, in its first year and a half, by hosting dozens of classes, ranging from drawing to martial arts, pop 'n' lock to puppetry, yoga to DJing. The lean and nimble paid staff is composed solely of Wolfe; Edwin Perry, who serves as co-director; and Bree Johnson, Rumble's administrative assistant.

A painter and spoken word artist herself, Wolfe was born and raised in Chicago, and lived the same Humboldt Park neighborhood as the Arts Center. After changing majors four times at a total of five different undergraduate art schools she left Chicago for Oakland, accepting the fact that her exposure to multiple teaching methods and styles was a good enough education in and of itself. After moving back from her transformative stay out west, Wolfe took inspiration from the arts program called Art Esteem she had worked with in California, and used it to guide her development of Rumble itself.

A family member and Rumble's first board member donated the three-story building he owned, and miraculously, the center had an instant home. The space was wide open and raw, and while professionals were hired for the plumbing and electric work, Wolfe tackled everything from hanging drywall to embellishing walls with mirrored and ceramic mosaics herself, drawing on her experience living in lofts and building theater sets. Volunteers helped out with the rest, painting and building shelves, and much of the building materials were supplied by donation, frequently consisting of salvaged or repurposed items.

Aside from an enormous hardwood dance floor with a partial mirrored wall, the second floor also features a small stage and Johnson's desk — an arrangement that literally thrusts part of Rumble's administration out into the open, underscoring their accessibility.

The next phase of construction included a complete gut rehab of the ground floor, which opened in September of 2009, in hopes that rental fees of the space could directly fund operating costs. Along with another hardwood floor, the white, pressed tin ceiling is ribbed with gallery grade track lighting, and a white baby grand piano holds court in front of the large, streetside storefront window.

Alongside rentals, they also donate the usage of the adjacent kitchen to the local Food Not Bombs chapter, who prepares and distributes food via the alleyway behind the building over the winter months.

Their fall season wound down with a major success; in November of 2009 they earned their 501c3 status, making Rumble eligible for grants and entitled to bypass sales tax.

The organization also invests a lot in their students, fostering growth from within as students go on to volunteer and sometime teach classes. It's not uncommon for collaboration and learning to take place horizontally too, as many teachers drop in to take other teachers' classes. The center is always accepting class and programming proposals, and lets the community's enthusiasm determine an offering's longevity.

One such class is African Drum & Dance, taught by Markeya Howard and Da'vid Braswell. Both were born and raised in Chicago, and Howard drew her inspiration in developing the class from her interest in showing students how popular contemporary dances, such as Stepping and other types of footwork, have their roots in African dance. According to Howard, "Drumming and dancing go together. You can't have one without the other." So while she instructs students in the Funga dance of Liberia, a welcome dance that illustrates hospitality by movements made with the hands from the heart to the mouth, Braswell works with students pounding out rhythms that literally shake the room on their Djembe drums.

The symbiotic relationship that exists between Howard, Braswell and the Rumble Arts Center is built on a foundation of trust and a belief in reciprocity; Rumble supports their complete creative control thanks to their programming's alignment with the center's mission, and they work with the community they most want to impact. As a bonus, the instructors find they are often better compensated at Rumble than in their additional professional employment, despite the sliding scale donation-based model the center employs.

Rumble's remarkable progress to date has largely been sustained by similarly symbiotic relationships, such as a dedicated and multiplying number of chiefly volunteer staff, including 23 volunteer teachers; interns receiving enrichment or course credits from local colleges and universities such as DePaul, The School of the Art Institute and UIC; a small handful of CPD-vetted victimless crime offenders doing community service hours; and religious groups bussed in to do days of service.

Until now, Rumble's expansion has happened organically, through word of mouth getting around artistic circles and like-minded DIY organizations as well as through peer to peer recommendations from community members who are also teachers or students of the Arts Center. Rumble is poised on the brink of a benchmark moment as Wolfe's efforts to build a solid board of directors come to fruition, strengthening networks within the not for profit arts and culture community and tapping into financial support from individual and organizational philanthropic entities. Whether the official channels they're beginning to travel result in expansion, or simply stability, its staff and students continue to define what success means to them, one rippling rumble at a time.

This Saturday, April 3 from 11am to 4pm, visit Rumble Arts Center for the free Mercadito Craft Fair, featuring a local DJ, food, and work for sale by 24 vendors from the Humboldt Park, Logan Square and Ukrainian Village neighborhoods, who will demonstrate their art- and craft-making process on-site; a trunk show by fashion design students who will create and alter clothing during the event; and a showcase of Rumble's teachers and students performing dances, playing music and displaying artwork they have created in their classes.

Photos and video by the author.

This feature is supported in part by a Community News Matters grant from The Chicago Community Trust and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

 
GB store
GB store

Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

Blogroll

ACRE
An Angry White Guy
Antena
AREA Chicago
ArchitectureChicago Plus
Arts Engagement Exchange
The Art Letter
Art or Idiocy?
Art Slant Chicago
Art Talk Chicago
Bad at Sports
Bite and Smile
Brian Dickie of COT
Bridgeport International
Carrie Secrist Gallery
Chainsaw Calligraphy
Chicago Art Blog
Chicago Art Department
Chicago Art Examiner
Chicago Art Journal
Chicago Artists Resource
Chicago Art Map
Chicago Art Review
Chicago Classical Music
Chicago Comedy Examiner
Chicago Cultural Center
Chicago Daily Views
Chicago Film Examiner
Chicago Film Archives
Chicago Gallery News
Chicago Uncommon
Collaboraction
Contemporary Art Space
Co-op Image Group
Co-Prosperity Sphere
Chicago Urban Art Society
Creative Control
Defibrillator
Devening Projects
Digressions
DIY Film
ebersmoore
The Exhibition Agency
The Flatiron Project
F newsmagazine
The Gallery Crawl...
Galerie F
The Gaudy God
Happy Dog Gallery
HollywoodChicago
Homeroom Chicago
I, Homunculus
Hyde Park Artcenter Blog
InCUBATE
Joyce Owens: Artist on Art
J-Pointe
Julius Caesar
Kasia Kay Gallery
Kavi Gupta Gallery
Rob Kozlowski
Lookingglass Theatre Blog
Lumpen Blog
Marquee
Mess Hall
N'DIGO
Neoteric Art
NewcityArt
NewcityFilm
NewcityStage
Not If But When
Noun and Verb
On Film
On the Make
Onstage
Peanut Gallery
Peregrine Program
Performink
The Poor Choices Show
Pop Up Art Loop
The Post Family
The Recycled Film
Reversible Eye
Rhona Hoffman Gallery
Roots & Culture Gallery
SAIC Blog
The Seen
Sharkforum
Sisterman Vintage
Site of Big Shoulders
Sixty Inches From Center
Soleil's To-Do's
Sometimes Store
Steppenwolf.blog
Stop Go Stop
Storefront Rebellion
TOC Blog
Theater for the Future
Theatre in Chicago
The Franklin
The Mission
The Theater Loop
Thomas Robertello Gallery
threewalls
Time Tells Tony Wight Gallery
Uncommon Photographers
The Unscene Chicago
The Visualist
Vocalo
Western Exhibitions
What's Going On?
What to Wear During an Orange Alert?
You, Me, Them, Everybody
Zg Gallery

GB store

 

Events


A/C on Flickr

Join the A/C Flickr Pool.



About A/C

A/C is the arts and culture section of Gapers Block, covering the many forms of expression on display in Chicago. More...
Please see our submission guidelines.

Editor: Nancy Bishop, nancy@gapersblock.com
A/C staff inbox: ac@gapersblock.com

Archives

 

A/C Flickr Pool
 Subscribe in a reader.

GB store

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15