Founded in 1940 through President Franklin Roosevelt’s Work Progress Administration the South Side Community Art Center continues to cultivate artists’ careers through exhibitions, community programming, public events and classes.
Of 110 Federal Art Project’s centers, the SSCAC is the only surviving art center of this project and is the oldest African American art center in the country. Its beginnings were also shepherded by the then-youngest member of its board Dr. Margaret Burroughs. A young leader, she was instrumental in engaging the community and local civic leaders to raise the monies needed to compliment federal funds to start the center and purchase the building and the land the center still occupies today. Her continuous leadership and dedication has kept it thriving, even past her death in 2010. Dr. Burroughs is also the founder of the DuSable Museum of African American History, which was started in her home, right across the street from SSCAC.
The center was instrumental in launching the careers of many luminaries of the African American art world and nationally and internationally established artists. Poet Gwendolyn Brooks taught at the SSCAC, photographer Gordon Parks had his first darkroom in the Center's basement, and Charles White and Elizabeth Catlett shared what they learned from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago with other artists who could not afford the tuition.
Photos courtesy of Ron West, Tony Smith and SSCAC archives