BRONZEVILLE — An artist by day and mixed martial arts fighter by night is preparing to open his first art gallery and jazz lounge.
Deon Steward, 35, who lives in south suburban Crete, has been renovating the two-story building at 3513 S. King Drive in preparation for his expected mid-July launch date. The self-taught artist plans to showcase his oil paintings, abstract art and sculptures.
What he’s most excited about though, is making room for the teens in the community.
“I want to teach them art,” he said. “I want to give them freedom to be able to explore their talents.”
Steward said he also wanted to offer space to artists who didn't have anywhere else to work. He remembers when he didn’t have room to delve into his art.
“Most people, like myself before I was here, they don’t have anywhere to paint,” Steward said. “They paint in their room. They’re always doing it from home. Nobody has a space, and I want to be able to offer that.”
The art gallery will turn into a jazz lounge at least once a week. The chosen date has not been selected, nor has the name of the venue.
Steward sings, too, and he plans to perform at the new lounge, he said.
He’s always been a creative person, and mixed martial arts has been a love since he was 7, he said.
It’s the adrenaline rush when he’s doing the cage fighting that keeps him coming back, he said.
“I’m not an evil person, nor do I have a temper,” he said. “I just love the art of martial arts and the competition. It’s cool.”
Workout sessions are intense and take a couple of hours, but Steward said he doesn't mind.
“You have to put your body through a lot to be able to endure somebody else with equal skills,” he said. “It’s all about just putting your body through hell so you can go in a cage and do your thing, get hit and still be able to come back.”
These days, when he’s not training or competing, he is doing the construction work for his art gallery. He said he loved designing, and he helped with Yassa African Restaurant next door.
Restaurant owner Madieye Gueye said Bronzeville is experiencing a renaissance and that Steward has been a part of that transformation.
“Deon, with his art, is making a big difference,” he said. “We’re all giving the community a way to connect, to network and to grow. This is something no one can do by themselves. We need to combine efforts and ideas because we’re doing it for the future generations. I’m proud and excited to really be a part of this Bronzeville renaissance.”
The building will also be open to the community if people want to rent it out for private events. They can contact him via email firstname.lastname@example.org or 708-837-1605.
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