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About the current Harper Court Arts Council (often referred to now as Hyde Park Arts Council)

Presented by Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference and its website This is not the website of or represent the view of Harper Court Arts Council-- that is now For Harper Court history in, see Harper Court and Harper Court Sale home and subpages from there.

Prepared by Gary Ossewaarde

Harper Court Arts Council is located at 1525 E. 53rd Street, #207, Chicago, Illinois, 60615, phone 773 773 363-8282.

Grant deadlines: the 15th of February, May, August, and November.

(Note: the Arts Council continues to serve as fiscal agent for the Community Art Fair for 2009, after which it will change fiscal agent. Visit

Please note qualifications include being 501c3, in business at least 3 y7ears, have a paid staff member, and serve HPK.

From the HCAC report in TIF Advisory Council minutes for May 2009

As clarified and expanded in the revised May 2009 TIF minutes:

Harper Court Arts Council Update: In response to a question at the last TIF meeting regarding the Arts Council, Mary Anton, a HCAC member, updated those present on grant allocations. She stated that the Arts Council is a not-for-profit 501C3 entity, targeting economic development and arts programs serving the Hyde Park/Kenwood neighborhoods.

In the first grant period that included all of 2008, a total of $320,000 was awarded to about 20 arts organizations. There will be four grant cycles in 2009 averaging between $10,000 and $50,000. To qualify for a grant, organizations must be a not-for-profit, be in business for at least three years, have on paid staff member, and serve the Hyde Park/Kenwood Community.

In response to questions, Ms. Anton stated that the Harper court sale total was $6,500,000 with the money now invested with Northern Trust. She estimates that between $150,000 and $300,000 will be awarded each year. Economic development grants have gone to entities such as the Jazz Festival, Experimental Station, and the Quad Communities Development Corporation.

Additional information can be found on the web site,

[Renewed] Harper Court Arts Council awards first grants. $300K goes to 18 local groups.
Hyde Park Herald, January 14, 2009. By Kate Hawley

The Harper Court Arts Council undertook a flurry of activity in December, announcing its first grant program and handing out $300,000 to to 18 local arts and community development organizations.

The nonprofit, which formerly ran the Harper Court shopping center, sold the property for $6.5 million -- leaving its coffers flush during an economic downturn, when many foundations and nonprofits are struggling to stay afloat.

Under a set of new bylaws established in April, the Arts Council is required to make grants to groups or individuals in the Hyde Park and Kenwood area, with the broader goal of boosting the arts and economic development in the the community.

According to Arts Council President Paula Jones, Internal Revenue Service requirements called for the organization to give away a certain amount of money by the end of 2008. The organization mailed notices that grant money was available on Dec. 1, she said. Completed applications were due Dec. 15, and th Arts Council notified the winners by the end of the month.

Chuck Thurow, executive director of the Hyde Park Art Center, who recently joined the Arts Council's board, said the tight turnaround, though "obviously not ideal," was a temporary hiccup as the organization gets established. "I think they did an amazing job of getting everything together as quickly as they did," he said.

Jones added that the Arts Council will provide more notice in future grant cycles. "We've been working on it," she said. "It's a process." Application deadline for 2009, posted on the Arts Council's Web site, are Feb. 15, May 15, Aug. 15, and Nov. 15.

The awardees [of December 2008] include many familiar names in the local cultural scene, including the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, the Court Theatre and the 57th Street Children's Book Fair. (see complete list [below].) About $200,000 supported arts groups and about $100,000 supported business and economic development in the neighborhood, according to Jones. She declined to specify how much each organization received but said the amounts ranged from $5,000 to $50,000. She pledge that detailed information wil be posted on the Arts Council's new Web site,, but said she did not know when.

Thurow said the Hyde Park Art Center received $20,000, adding that he recused himself from deciding whether to award money to the institution he heads. The amounts of some of the awards far exceeded what the Arts Council initially promised in its grant application form, which said awards were expected to range from $1,000 to $10,000. The amounts awarded were "based on the needs requests" from applying organizations, said Jones. Some asked for more than they got, but no group who applied in the firsts round of grants was turned down, she said. "Everybody that applied, we were able to accommodate in some form or other."

Awards will likely be lower in the future. According to a written statement from the Arts Council, "Grants in near future review cycles are expected to range in size from $1,000 to $10,000 per year."

The first round of grant-making comes in the wake of some controversy surrounding the Arts Council. The Illinois Attorney General's office began monitoring the organization in early 2006, about a month after the Harper Court Foundation, the nonprofit that had run the shopping center for 40 years, transferred its assets to the Arts Council, an offshoot nonprofit formed in 1990 to promote the arts in Hyde Park. Some locals, including Hyde Park Attorney Jorge Sanchez, questioned the legality of the transfer. And Herald Publisher Bruce Sagan editorialized that the Arts Council's board had been secretive about its dealings.

The board defended the transfer, saying it would allow the Arts Council to sell the ailing shopping center to a developer who could revitalize it. The organization could then use the assets to support arts and economic development in the community, which, they argued, was the best way to further the original mission of harper Court, built in 1965 to support local artisans displaced by Urban Renewal.

The Attorney General's office ultimately recommended that the Arts Council restructure and reviewed a new set of bylaws that were finalized in April. Chief among the new requirements, the Arts Council must undertake a program of local grant-making, engage in community outreach through advisory committees and a Web site and create an expanded, reorganized board of directors.

The Web site is up, and per the new minimum established in the bylaws, it lists 10 board members, three more than the arts Council had in June. they are: Thurow; Laurel Stradford, a longtime Hyde Parker and owner of the business What the Traveler Saw, 1508 E. 55th St; and ann Billingsley, executive director of the Hyde Park School of Dance. "I was honored when I was asked to join," said Stradford, who also recently joined the 53rd Street Tax-Increment Financing Advisory Council. She recalled that Hyde Park and Kenwood were busy, vibrant neighborhoods in the '60s and '70s, and added, "We're ripe for a new growth spurt."

Thurow said that since the Arts Council covers such a small geographic area, it has the power to create a strong sense of community, particularly by boosting the "informal arts" -- everything from knitting groups to amateur musical gatherings. Billingsley could not immediately be reached by the Heralds' press time.

December 2008 grantees

Each received between $5,000 and $50,000.


Harper Court Arts Council reorganizes in May 2008 to support both diverse and artisan retail and arts via grants.

Hyde Park Herald, June 4, 2008. By Kate Hawley

Harper Court Arts Council to expand, restructure. Board member pledges nonprofit will be "very open"

Revised Mission statement:

"The Corporation shall be organized for the dual purposes of (1) economic development specifically in the Hyde Park and Kenwood communities through projects designed to provide for the continuation in the community of diversified properties and programs which are necessary for artisans, craftsmen, educational, recreational and other services offered on a commercial or not-for-profit basis and (2) to support, benefit and provide for the promotion of th arts in the Chicago metropolitan area with specific emphasis in the Hyde Park Kenwood communities ("Hyde Park") through the awarding of grants and sponsorships to community based groups and individuals."

The Harper Court Arts Council, the nonprofit organization that has been at the center of controversy in its role as steward of the Harper Court shopping center, has a new bylaws that requires community outreach and an expanded, recognized board of directors.

The bylaws were amended in April, about a month before the University of Chicago announced it had bought Harper Court..... The Arts Council received $6.5 million from the sale.

The changes to the bylaws were meant to ensure that the Arts Council's board is representative of the community, said Robyn Ziegler, a spokesperson for the Illinois Attorney General's office. The office has been monitoring the Arts Council since early 2006, about a month after the Harper Court Foundation, the nonprofit that had run the shopping center for 40 years, transferred its assets to the Arts Council, an offshoot organization formed in 1990 to promote the arts in Hyde Park.

The idea behind the transfer, Arts Council board members have explained, was to sell the flagging shopping center to a developer who could revitalize it and funnel the assets into an organization to support arts and artists. This, they've argued, was a way to further the original mission of Harper Court, built in 1965 to support artists displaced by Urban Renewal.

But some in the community, including Hyde Park attorney Jorge Sanchez, claimed the transfer was illegal because the foundation installed some of its members into director positions at the Arts Council. And, he charged, the foundation didn't dissolve after it transferred its assets. In a letter to the Attorney General, he also argued it is unlawful to move the money to a nonprofit with a different mission, since in his view the Arts Council's work promoting the arts didn't match the foundation's original mission toe preserve retail diversity.

The Attorney General's office has reported nothing illegal about the transfer but has made some recommendations about restructuring the Arts Council, according to Ziegler. Sanchez--and other Hyde Parkers--have complained that the Arts Council's board has been non communicative as talks about the sale and redevelopment of the shopping center have heated up.

But the university's purchase of the shopping center and the organizational changes within the Arts Council mark a new era, according to board member Nancy Rosenbacher. "There will be no invisible anything with this Arts Council," she said. "Anything we might do will be very open."

The Arts Council will use the fund towards its mission to support arts in the community (see the box...). "We'll continue to monitor their progress," said Ziegler.

The new bylaws require a board composed of 10 to 15 people. That's at least three more than the board had in February 2006, when it sent a letter to the Herald signed by seven people: Paula Jones, Nancy Rosenbacher, Mary Anton, James Ratcliffe, Kenneth Grant, Georgene Pavalec and Duel Richardson. An eighth, Attorney Jason Bruce, was later added, according to Rosenbacher.

Since the new bylaws were written, the board has decided to add three more more members, she said. She declined to name them yet, saying she needed to wait until each of them has been officially notified by the board. That is expected to happen in coming weeks, she said, adding that all of the new members have "foundation backgrounds."

The bylaws also include detailed stipulations about the makeup of the board. For example, no less than 75 percent of its members must live in Hyde Park or Kenwood. And at least a quarter of the members must have arts background, experience in economic development in Hyde Park and Kenwood, and be member of Hyde Park or Kenwood Community organizations.

The bylaws also require community outreach, with the board mandated to "encourage participation by the groups and individuals that are intended to benefit from the Corporation's activities, and to listen to, and obtain feedback from, members of the Hyde Park community." The Arts Council is also required to maintain a detailed website where annual reports will be published within six months of the close of each fiscal year.

Reaching out to the community will be the Arts Council's next big step, Rosenbacher said. The group's focus is to "get organized and send notices out to the community looking for projects," she said, adding "Summer's coming. I'm sure we'll get most active in the fall."



Some past grants of the Arts Council

Helga Sinaiko relates to Herald projects over the years of the Harper Court Arts Council, new owner of the shopping center

Since include Stars of the Joffrey at Hyde Park School of Ballet benefit, Harper Court Int'l Art Fair