West Siders will have a handful of opportunities to share their stories with their neighbors during a series of upcoming community events planned by Grown Folks Stories, a creative initiative launched by the Silver Room, a jewelry and apparel shop based in Hyde Park.

Eric Williams, who owns the Silver Room, said that the Grown Folks Stories series has been around since 2009. The events are free and anyone can share whatever stories they feel like sharing, as they’re under five minutes. 

Williams explained that the series’ usual venue since the fall of 2018, the Washington Park neighborhood’s Green Line Performing Arts Center, 329 E. Garfield Blvd., closed during the pandemic. 

He said that the series will return to the art center in October, but, in the meantime, they are doing a number of special events in several West Side venues. Williams said that many of the audience members who would attend the Green Line live on the West Side and so he wanted to do something in the communities where those supporters live. 

The events are held every third Thursday of the month at 6 p.m., with the actual storytelling starting at 7 p.m. The first event took place at East Garfield Park’s Herban Produce urban farm, 2900 W. Van Buren St., on July 15. Williams said that the August event will take place at East Garfield Park’s 345 Art Gallery, 345 N. Kedzie Ave., but, as of July 14, they hadn’t settled on a September venue.

The Green Line Performing Arts Center is part of the Arts + Public Life, a University of Chicago initiative that sets out to cultivate art in the Washington Park community. The venue was built to provide a venue for South Side actors and performers. Williams said that Grown Folks Stories moved into the new venue shortly after it opened in late 2018. 

Williams said that each event is relaxed and judgment-free. Anyone interested can come an hour ahead of time and sign up. Their names are randomly picked out of a hat. For the West Side events, West Siders will be given priority.

Williams said that, while many people who arrive are apprehensive at first, no one has ever backed out. In many cases, he said, attendees who came simply to watch were inspired by what they heard and ended up performing. 

Williams said that he is open to doing more West Side events after the series returns to the Green Line Arts Center, but for now, he is focused on the events already scheduled.

“I want people to just have fun,” he said. “Come out and have fun. Tell a friend and come out and share stories with one another.” 

For latest information on the Grown Folks Stories: West Side Edition and other Silver Room events, visit its Facebook page at facebook.com/thesilverroom

Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Austin Weekly News since 2015. His work has also appeared...