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Longtime Pilsen Arts Program Gets a Makeover

By Chloe Riley | January 27, 2013 8:11am

PILSEN —  A longtime Pilsen arts program just got a facelift.  

After receiving a grant last year, ElevArte, formerly known as Pros Arts Studio, got an entire overhaul, including a new name, website and space.

“It’s a big coming out party for us in a way,” said Giselle Mercier, ElevArte’s executive director.

For the past 35 years, the program has provided free arts classes and mentoring to young adults in Pilsen, in addition to aiding students with their college portfolios.

But the space is not just for young students. A computer lab, fitted with new Macs, is located in ElevArte’s renovated space on the third floor of Dvorak Park at 1119 W. Cullerton Ave., and is open to anyone in the community who needs it.

Katherine Darnstadt is the founder of Latent Design, the company which helped renovate ElevArte’s new space.

Darnstadt said as an architect she often sees non-profits putting themselves last on the list when it comes to fixing up their own work areas.

“They [non-profits] often work with what they get or what they have and don’t ask for more,” she said.

But after flipping the layout around and adding a new level in the room, Darnstadt said the space has been “truly transformed.”

Through encouragement from staff, one recent ElevArte grad is now working with students at Spry Community Links High School to paint a mural at the school.

“This is an honor,” Freya Enriquez said. “These guys are like a family to me,” she said, referring to the ElevArte staff.

Enriquez, 18, said her dad originally didn’t agree with her choice to pursue art. But after talking with ElevArte staff and seeing her work, Enriquez said her dad became more open to the idea.

Currently the 18-year-old attends Morton College and said she eventually wants to transfer to the Art Institute of Chicago, where she hopes to major in Illustration.

“I’ve been here, like, forever,” she said of ElevArte. “They have pushed me to my limits.”