On a plot of land close to the University of Chicago you find an area with lush community gardens tended by Chicagoans that care for growing their own food. On entering the gardens only the constant humming in the background from the steam power plant, one of the cities most beautiful industrial buildings, reminds you that you are still in the city.
Just behind the gardens allmost covered by vegetation lies an odd shaped building with construction going on. This is the experimental station, a bike workshop, the Baffler magazine, a small business incubator and the studio of Dan Peterman who is the primus motor of the station. The name is well picked, as it is a frame-work for projects starting from a grassroots level that develop over time into small businesses, nonprofit organizations and art projects.
The history of the building dates back to the late 1960's when the station was started by Ken Dunn as the Resource Center - a project that is still ongoing. Dan Peterman acquired the station in 1996, but in 2001 the place burned down and years of work was ruined. Now after years of rebuilding and legal battles the place is almost back on its feet and ready for a gradual start.
The experimental station is a unique project in community- based neighborhood change and shows a break with the all too familiar gentrification process. Creating a space for artists and less affluent groups to come together and produce with the assurance that they won't be evicted allows for a different kind of investment of time and energy into the place.
In many ways the place is a dream situation where an institution together with artists and producers form an ecology that opens possibilities and allows for the sharing of ressources and the development of independent projects and thinking.
The video shows the present progress of experimental station as of October 2005 as well as an interview with Dan Peterman. Download it here (20 minutes, 21 MB)
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