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'Bridgeport Smilebooth' Would Bring Neighbors Face to Face

By Casey Cora | January 2, 2014 6:56am
 Design student Jacquelyn Astorga's concept would bring a photo booth to 34th and Halsted streets.
Bridgeport Photo Booth
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BRIDGEPORT — Who are the people in the neighborhood?

Design student Jacquelyn Astorga said they're a diverse mix of people made up of differing ethnicities and economic classes, and she wants to capture as many of their faces as she can in a pop-up photo booth.

"I've lived all over in Chicago and moving to Bridgeport was my first experience living on the South Side. I was struck by how different a neighborhood it really was. I don't think people have a lot of exposure to it," said Astorga, a New Jersey native.

Astorga, 27, a graduate student at the Harrington College of Design, envisions the booth installed in front of the fountain just north of the Richard J. Daley branch of the Chicago Public Library, 3400 S. Halsted St., a stretch of Bridgeport where the neighborhood's gritty charm tends to shine.

The way she's drawn it up — the plans for the "Bridgeport Smilebooth" are on her website — participants could walk in, have a photo snapped and receive a printout.

The images would also be displayed on large screens inside the booth, giving participants a glimpse of the neighborhood through the faces of the people who call it home.

"The whole concept is how design can have a positive impact on society," she said.

To be clear, Astorga stressed that the Smilebooth is just a concept. There are currently no plans to fund it, build it or operate it.

But Astorga said she's been encouraged by the feedback she's gotten since blasting it out via Twitter earlier this week.

"It was kind of fun to see that I got this instant reaction. So who knows," she said.

The Smilebooth is in line with other concepts that would transform the area, including artist Dan Pugh's and architect Tabitha Ponte's renderings for a ceramic arts training building at 31st and Morgan streets. 

And, of course, there is the "giant flying glitter boobies" mobile art gallery, a local art student's crowdfunded effort to bring a pop-up performance space in Bridgeport and beyond.