We love witnessing new ideas and new stories. It’s here at Catalyst Ranch, in the midst of objects and décor rich in history, that your imagination is stoked and something new is created. We’ve treasured the communities that have come here to make new ideas, stories and art.

In honor of this year’s Women’s History Month theme, Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories, we’re highlighting a few women who have made indelible marks for art and storytelling in Chicago.

Hall Branch opening day, January 1932. Vivian Harsh, center. Source: George Cleveland Hall Branch Archives

Vivan G Harsh and Charlemae Hill Rollins

The Chicago Public Library has long been invaluable to nurturing learning, literacy and storytelling among Chicagoans of all ages. Two notable women in the history of CPS opened the Bronzeville neighborhood’s George Cleveland Hall Branch.

The branch opened under the leadership of Vivian G Harsh, who was CPL’s first African American branch head and established the largest African American history and literature collection in the Midwest.

Charlemae Hill Rollins and girls, 1952. Source: George Cleveland Hall Branch Archives

The library’s children’s librarian was author Charlemae Hill Rollins, who also served as the first African American president of the Children’s Services Division of the American Library Association.

Coya Paz Brownrigg Free Street Theater 100 Hauntings

Coya Paz Brownrigg

Writer and director Coya Paz has been shaping theatre in Chicago in many important ways, all guided by the belief in the power of performance and poetry to build community towards social change.

Among Paz Brownrigg’s many arenas of art-making, she is a co-founder of the all-Latina Teatro Luna; Artistic Director of Free Street Theater, whose work is dedicated to Chicago’s diverse communities; and co-author of the book Ensemble-Made Performance: A Guide to Devised Theater.

The South Side Community Art Center. Inset: Margaret Burroughs

Margaret Burroughs 

The first Black art museum in the United States, the South Side Community Art Center was established in 1940 with through the collaboration of a number of Black Chicago artists, including Margaret Burroughs. Burroughs was truly a visionary both in her original art and writing as well as her drive to create spaces for Black artists, which continued with launching — in her own living room, no less —the oldest museum of Black culture in the US, what we now know as the — what is now the DuSable Museum of African American History.

The South Side Community Art Center is one of a handful of Chicago art institutions forged by women. Read about more of these Women-Made Chicago Art Spaces here.

Speaking of centers for making art, on Sunday, March 19, the Chicago faction of the Urban Sketchers art-makers social circle convenes at Catalyst Ranch for their recurring group sketch meet-up.

Sketchers and other visual artists new to the group are welcome to join for a serene afternoon making new art in the company of peers, this time using our vibrant environment as the subject of new sketches and more!

See a selection of past Urban Sketchers art made at Catalyst Ranch, below!

Click here to see all our scheduled public events at Catalyst Ranch.

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