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Two artists seek to create community with La Esquina center in Pilsen

Two artists seek to create community with La Esquina center in Pilsen
Two artists seek to create community with La Esquina center in Pilsen 02:14

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Two artists are using their art to create change – opening a community center in the Pilsen neighborhood that will be free and open to all Chicagoans.

CBS 2's Marybel González spoke Thursday to the founders about their mission.

Art has been a transformative force in the lives of Mateo Zapata and Pablo Serrano.


Zapata's passion lies behind the lens of the camera, while Serrano's is in the stroke of a paintbrush.


But now, both artists are bringing their media under one roof. With funds awarded from the city, they are transforming a former grocery store in to a community center – where they will be holding free art and photography workshops.

It is located at the corner of Cullerton and Carpenter streets, and it is called La Esquina - the Spanish word for corner.

"There's a lot of trauma that's associated with street corners, but then, there's also a lot of strength and a lot of resilience," Zapata said. "So I think that is what we're going to emulate."

"Tapping into our experiences can be one of the greatest treasures that we can pass on to the next generation of younger folks that are looking to navigate the same world with all the different influences that are there," added Serrano.

The mission behind the center is also to get young people off the streets and into a creative space – especially in neighborhoods that have been plagued with violence.

"That's just part of the reality of growing up in places like Pilsen," Serrano said. "Even with the changes, it's still present and part of Chicago."

Our analysis of police data found that while overall crime is down 20 percent in the Lower West Side community area – which includes Pilsen – violent crime is up compared with this time last year.

Zapata and Serrano are hoping to change that.

"The question is how. And that 'how' is this - by engaging and connecting and hopefully offering opportunities to pass on the things that we've learned," Serrano said.

The workshops will be held every Friday starting in mid-August, and people of all ages can attend them. You don't have to be from Pilsen to come to the center, and Zapata and Serrano say you don't even have to be an artists.

"The space is to connect and create community," Serrano said.

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