Ten Years at the North Lakeside Cultural Center

Vol. X No. 2 - SPRING/SUMMER 1999

By: Mary Tatto, NLCC Executive Director and Kathy Gemperle

Ten years ago the North Lakeside Cultural Center opened its doors as a place for concerts, exhibitions workshops. performances and classes. That opening was the result of a nine year community action campaign to acquire the lakefront properties for public use and renovate the 1910 Gunder Mansion at 6219 N. Sheridan as a community place for the Arts.

The campaign was led by the late Kathy Osterman, Vice President of the Edgewater Community Council, who along with former 49th Ward Alderman David Orr, artist Ian Johnson and many more, saved the last remaining lakefront open space from high rise development. The site, 3.5 acres, became Berger Park. In 1979, the Board of Directors of the Edgewater Community Council passed a resolution calling on the City to “act decisively and imaginatively to acquire this most needed property.” Community support in both Rogers Park and Edgewater grew through a petition drives and letters of support from many politicians. In March 1981 the Chicago Park District purchased the property, which was owned by the Clerics of St. Viator, for $2.3 million. That action set the stage for the future development of the site as a cultural arts campus.

The Chicago Park District, for its part, announced that it would spend $650,000 to renovate the South Mansion. Through several years of negotiations with the Chicago Park District, the Viatorian Committee of the Edgewater Community Council, later called the Restoration Committee, persuaded the CPD that the community could and would save the North Mansion and create a community-based arts organization.

In 1985 the North Lakeside Cultural Center was incorporated as a non-profit arts organization with Viatorian Committee Chairman, Roula Alakiotou-Borenstine, as President. The fundraising began in earnest as the Chicago Park District set deadlines and then moved them back. The Chicago Community Trust offered $100,000 to the project. Ron and Meta Berger led a matching fund campaign and the “Buy a Brick” campaign. Community contributions continued to grow and then in 1986 the City of Chicago directed $216,000 to the project. A brick laying ceremony was planned and construction began. Edgewater Architect, Ed Simon, worked with Roula to complete construction plans.

The Chicago Park District entered into a formal agreement with the North Lakeside Cultural Center to rehab the Center and operate it as a cultural center for 25 years. To that end the Center has offered a variety of programs and events for the community. First, there was Sunday Afternoon at the Mansion, then the Gallery exhibitions and discussions; workshops and classes followed. A program called Solo was created by Edgewater resident Zoe Keithley. Gallery activities were expanded with the Day to Create programs for school children, neighbors and families. Then in 1992 NLCC held its first Art Fair in cooperation with ECC.

In 1993, in gratitude for the leadership of the late Kathy Osterman in saving the Mansion, the Center named the beautifully restored living room in her honor. During the past ten years the NLCC has had several dedicated presidents including Joan Goldman, Kathy Gemperle, Carolyn Cordes and Reggie Griffin.

The continued support of the Berger Family Foundation shows the depth of their commitment to the arts. Volunteers from both Rogers Park and Edgewater have contributed in hundreds of ways. This fall the North Lakeside Cultural Center artists will teach classes in memoir and play writing, story-telling, literature, movement, theater, guitar and art. They will present concerts and performances, art exhibitions and historic and community cultural programs. Be a part of the action!