10 years of ‘creative possibilities’ showcased at Logan Birthday Bash

The Center for Arts celebrates milestone with art-packed community event

Bright steel drums greeted attendees as they entered, and danced into, the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts. Chicago’s Epic Steel was one of over 25 groups, performers and artists featured at the Logan Center’s 10th Anniversary Birthday Bash, held Sunday, May 21.

Community partners, artists, staff and students were invited to explore the vast 10-story building to sample highlights of what the Logan Center offers all year round. Around each corner and along each floor, attendees could see and make art.

Participants were also invited to step into the story booth to share their own memories of Logan. Cards and posters prompted visitors to fill in their thoughts about the arts hub. “Isobel thinks the Logan Center is full of possibilities,” one read. “I’ll never forget the moment at the Logan Center when we shared, we sang and we greeted each other,” said another.

The event’s main program, “From Groundbreaking to Breathtaking: Celebrating a Decade” featured music, dance and poetry. Offerings included the world-premiere of “Star Box,” a collaborative piece between composer Augusta Read Thomas and Deeply Rooted Dance Theater, and a stirring performance by Chicago poet laureate avery r. young.

“250,000 people enter this building every year to learn and teach, to move and be moved,” said Prof. David Levin, senior advisor to the Provost for Arts, during his opening remarks. “To explore without boundaries, to engage with art deeply and to express themselves freely. What a decade it's been.”

A vibrant showcase

The festivities began with the celebratory program in the Performance Hall, where each performer and speaker took a moment to address how their experiences at the Logan Center had impacted their lives and careers.

Vocalist Dee Alexander reminisced about her album, “Songs My Mother Loves,” which premiered on Logan’s stage. After Logan Center Senior Director of Programming and Engagement—and renowned storyteller—Emily Hooper Lansana read a commissioned piece by Angela Jackson, Illinois Poet Laureate, she said, “The Logan Center has meant a place where I could bring all of myself and where I could open the door and be grateful that so many people would follow me.”

The program also featured several world premieres, a phenomenon not uncommon at the Logan Center. UChicago student acapella group Voices in Your Head debuted the harmony-filled piece “Now I’m Listening,” written by former student director Will Cabaniss and Carly Wood. “Student-led, student-run art has been such a priority of the Logan Center,” Cabaniss said. “We can’t thank you enough for the space that you've made for us.”

A percussive collaboration between composer Prof. Augusta Read Thomas and Deeply Rooted Dance Theater featured “quartets within quartets” and was brought to life by yet another quartet of dancers.

Once the cheers had died down after avery r. young’s spine-tingling closing performance, the inaugural Chicago poet laureate expressed his gratitude for the Center. “If I had 10,000 tongues and each tongue had an echo and each echo had an echo, I couldn't express how glad I am to be standing before you up in this house.”

“I needed this,” said an attendee afterwards.

Ten years of impact

Not only is the Logan Center a great place to see art, but it has also directly impacted the arts culture of the university, Chicago’s South Side and beyond.

According to Levin’s opening remarks, the number of students majoring in the arts has jumped 136% since the Logan Center opened. Two new fields—creative writing and media arts and design—are now the fastest growing majors in the humanities.

A visit to any part of the building revealed the deep partnerships and variety of programming Logan has cultivated in the past decade. The smell of fresh popcorn led visitors to the second floor for arts and crafts—just a sample of one of Logan's staple programs: Family Saturdays. To date, Logan has also held over 100 School Matinees that have brought thousands of K-12 students to the building for performances.

Visitors could journey up to the penthouse for a set from the Alejandro Salazar Trio. Key relationships with partners like the Hyde Park Jazz Society have made the Logan Center a prime place to hear jazz and blues in Chicago.

If you poked a nose into one of the building’s many studios, you might have gotten swept into an interactive ballet class or a West African dance workshop. Throughout the summer, Logan’s variety of classes provide spaces to explore dance and other art experiences.

“For over 10 years, the Logan Center has helped lead the way in connecting the university to communities and demonstrated, through partnership, what it means to be an engaged university,” said Levin.

“The future of this building is bright,” said Logan’s Executive Director Bill Michel. “And for the next few hours, for the next few years, the next few decades and beyond, I hope you'll keep coming and sharing your stories with us.”