When it opens in the Fine Arts Building on October 1, the American Rhythm Center will be home to a great nonprofit experiment: It will serve as HQ for nine disparate arts organizations. Artistic director Lane Alexander of Chicago Human Rhythm Project says the idea was born from a simple question: “We went out into the community and said, ‘[A permanent space] is too big for us by ourselves. Is anyone else in need of the same things we need?’ ”
Alexander’s business model called for the sharing of a permanent facility, one that everyone could call home. The potential benefits of such an idea seem great, though CHRP executive director Frank Sonntag points out, “It’s a very tricky thing because silo mentalities develop: ‘That’s my box, don’t you step in it,’ ” he says. “Our challenge will be to break down some of those barriers.”
Rhythm Center will boast three remodeled studios, dressing rooms, administrative offices and, in the future, a black-box theater that will seat 150–180. Though based on untested principles, ARC potentially opens the door for a new type of collaborative system, allowing smaller companies to reap the benefits of larger institutions. For its aggregate members, like the 14-member contemporary ensemble Giordano Dance Chicago and the six-person artistic team of the Chinese cultural group Ping Pong Productions, a permanent home means new possibilities.
“I think being around other extraordinary dancers, creative folks, only makes us more strong,” says Giordano executive director Michael McStraw.
The American Rhythm Center (410 S Michigan Ave, 312-922-1272, chicagotap.org) opens October 1.