Douglas Park in North Lawndale. | Rick McNees/

Over the past few years, Douglas Park has hosted numerous events devoted to music. Each year, the West Side Music Festival takes up the southern half of the park and last year Riot Fest moved there from Humboldt Park. But there was never anything devoted primarily to art — until now.

On Aug. 6, Douglas Park’s field house will the first North Lawndale Art Festival. The event is being organized by North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council’s arts and culture sub-committee. It will feature local artists, vendors and musicians.

Sub-committee chair Sheila McNary said that she hopes the festival will bring the community together and show the rest of Chicago just how vibrant and creative North Lawndale is.

The Arts and Culture sub-committee has been meeting since the beginning of the year, McNary said, and collectively brainstorming about doing something positive and potentially unifying on the West Side. They settled on putting together a festival some time in February, she noted.

“We got so many bad things in the press about what’s going on in the community,” McNary said. “What we want to do is put North Lawndale on the map and show that maybe good things will come out of it. We want to show the richness of the culture we have in Lawndale.”

On April 24, the sub-committee announced on NLCCC’s website that it was inviting local artists to submit their works. McNary said that they are casting a wide net. Artists who paint, make sculptures and work in other media are welcome. McNary also said that the sub-committee is looking for local artisans — such as people who make quilts, jewelry and other decorative objects — to serve as vendors, and local musicians to perform.

While North Lawndale and West Side artists would get priority, artists from all over Chicago are welcome to participate.

Artists and vendors should apply by contacting McNary either by phone at (312) 907-7701, or by e-mail at The deadline for registration is July 22.

McNary said that she has already secured several participants, such as Sweet Beginnings, a honey-making subsidiary of the North Lawndale Employment Network. She also said that some local artists who take part in the School of Art Institute’s Homan Square art education program will exhibit at the festival, which would also have plenty of food.

“We’re looking for some of the food trucks to come and serve food; we think that would be great idea,” said McNary.

McNary said that she hopes that festival will become an annual event – an event that would help change North Lawndale for the better.

“We have a very rich cultural community,” she said. “It’s beautiful and we want to show things that are on the West Side. We hope to do it annually and let it grow, because this would also help with creating development in Lawndale.”

One possible model for the NLCCC’s festival is Riot Fest, McNarry suggested. She said she lives across the street from where the weekend rock music festival was held. Like many of her neighbors, she was worried about the damage to the park and noise levels, but she said she was pleased with how it turned out.

“Everything they damaged, they replaced and we also got an infill playground that they built for us,” McNary said, adding that, on the whole, she thinks Riot Fest was beneficial for the neighborhood and is looking forward to it coming back this year — a few weeks after NLCCC holds a festival of its own.

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