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High-Flying Circus Performers Make Logan Square Church Their Home

By Mina Bloom | December 15, 2016 5:49am
 Students learning trapeze at Aloft Circus Arts, which is located inside a 109-year-old church at Wrightwood and Kimball avenues.
Students learning trapeze at Aloft Circus Arts, which is located inside a 109-year-old church at Wrightwood and Kimball avenues.
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DNAinfo/Mina Bloom

LOGAN SQUARE — It's been less than six months since Aloft Circus Arts took over the 109-year-old church at Kimball and Wrightwood avenues.

Since then, students of all skill levels and ages have flocked to the former Evangelical church, 3324 W. Wrightwood Ave., to learn trapeze, aerial skills, pole acrobatics, trampoline, tight-wire, hand-balancing, clowning and more.

The difference between the church and Aloft's previous location of eight years — an industrial warehouse at 2000 W. Fulton St. — is palpable. At the historic church, students twirl, jump and hang from riggings 40 feet in the air against a backdrop of giant stained glass windows and religious motifs.

"It's pretty and it feels sort of theatrical to be doing this in a space that's so intentional for something else," said Lacey Conley, a 34-year-old English professor who has been taking classes at Aloft for about two years.

The school has only attracted more students since the move, which is welcome news for founder Shayna Swanson, who admits the move was "a scary risk."

"We already had a solid student base and this being easier to get to and more community-friendly has brought in more people," said Swanson, who added that many of Aloft's students live in Logan Square and the surrounding area.

Because the church is smaller than the warehouse, most of the classes are held in the 6,000-square-foot main congregation area, which makes for a more collaborative experience.

"You see a lot more of everyone working together," said Bre Lawson, who teaches rope skills at the school.

Aloft, billed as the third largest circus school in the country, bought the church for about $1 million and raised an additional $60,000 through a crowdfunding campaign.

The only real changes Swanson had to make were moving out the pews, cleaning the building and installing rigging in the ceilings.

Aloft is hosting its first-ever holiday party and market this weekend. From 5-8 p.m. Sundy, there will be music from Low Down Brass Band, a holiday photo booth, manicures, circus performances, drinks, snacks provided by Smack Dab Chicago and more. The event is free and open to all ages.

To find out more about classes, visit Aloft's website.

Here are some scenes from Aloft's classes:

Lacey Conley has been taking classes at Aloft for the past two years. [All photos DNAinfo/Mina Bloom]

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