Sisters in Cinema held a press conference Feb. 8 at the South Shore Cultural Center to commemorate the construction of its new state-of-the-art Media Arts Center that will be at 2310 E. 75th St. The event, which was originally planned to take place outdoors at the construction site, was also live-streamed on the Sisters in Cinema Facebook page.
Founded in 1997, the non-profit Sisters in Cinema began as an online resource for and about African American women media-makers. The organization has grown to include Black girls, women and gender nonconforming individuals.
The goal of the center is to, according to the organization's press release, "focus on cultural development and neighborhood transformation through projects that promote and honor Black leadership, history and creativity. This project is made possible, in part, by a Neighborhood Opportunity Fund grant from the City of Chicago which finances commercial and cultural projects in historically disinvested neighborhoods by redirecting revenue generated from downtown development."
Among the new center's features will be a gallery space, a 45-seat theater, editing rooms, a computer lab, offices, classroom and conference space. Some of the free of charge planned events will be workshops, courses and other programming. It is slated to open in September 2021.
Following opening remarks by Sisters in Cinema Business and Development Coordinator Chloe Herring, Zahra Baker kicked off the event with a rousing spoken-word performance of "It's Time to Turn the Soil."
Award-winning filmmaker and Sisters in Cinema Founder and CEO Dr. Yvonne Welbon spoke about the history of the organization and the "exciting new chapter" that is beginning with this soon-to-be built facility. Welbon added that during graduate school, she only knew of one Black woman filmmaker and wanted to find more of them. This led to a database and then a website that has turned into what she believes is the largest archive of the who's who of Black women in media across the country.
"Today we are here to celebrate the biggest and boldest iteration of this project," said Welbon. "We are here for the groundbreaking of the Sisters in Cinema Media Arts Center here in South Shore. I grew up in South Shore and I currently live [here] … [This will be] an investment into this community largely because of the City of Chicago Neighborhood Opportunity Fund."
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she is "so proud" of Welbon's journey. Lightfoot emphasized the importance of the arts to "enrich the cultural landscape across the city as it has done down through the ages."
Lightfoot said it is important that this new media arts center will focus on Black girls, women and gender nonconforming media makers. She added that her hope is this center will produce the next Shonda Rhimes or Lena Waithe. Lightfoot also spoke about diversity and inclusion being at the core of Chicago's economic recovery from COVID-19 and that it is "strong, sustainable and above all else, supportive of our Black and Brown communities, businesses and organizations [like Sisters in Cinema]."
Chicago Ald.Greg Mitchell (7th Ward) expressed his excitement for this new media arts center being located in his ward and the variety of opportunities it will provide to the community.
Other dignitaries in attendance included Chicago Film Office Director Kwame Amoaku and Illinois Film Office Director Peter Hawley. A symbolic groundbreaking ended the event, with all the dignitaries participating.
See sistersincinema.com/ .