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BC-US--The Art of Unity,ADVISORY, US

September 24, 2018

Editors, News Directors:

Chicago’s Sedgwick Street sits in the middle of a great divide. The stretch of asphalt in one of America’s most segregated cities separates black and white, rich and poor. On the west side are blocks of subsidized housing where mostly African-American families live. On the east side are condominiums and luxury homes, filled mostly with white families. Both sides of the street are lined with fences and gates, often locked — sometimes to keep people out, sometimes to keep them in.

Despite these divisions, a small but committed group of residents decided to band together to try to bridge differences — with a neighborhood art studio.

“The way it is now isn’t the way it has to be,” the founder of Art of Sedgwick remembers thinking back at the beginning of this mini-social experiment.

AP National Writer Martha Irvine immersed herself for more than a year in this community in Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood to tell a story of everyday people using art to bring residents together in a city — and country — in need of a little unity. She reported, shot photos and produced a video about this effort and the people behind it.

“The Art of Unity” is available for use beginning at 12:01 a.m. EDT Wednesday, Sept. 26. The text and photos have moved in advance as HFRs for planning purposes.

THE ART OF UNITY

CHICAGO — The sixth-graders, from very opposite sides of the street, sat in pairs, a list of questions before them: “What do you dream about?” ″Do you think about dying?” ″Are you scared?” Their task, at once easy and awkward, was to learn about one another — and differences surfaced quickly. One African-American boy from a public school pulled up a pant leg to reveal where a bullet had pierced his calf in a wrong-place, wrong-time shooting. His partner, a white boy who attends a private school and lives three blocks yet worlds away, was shocked, then saddened. The 40 or so children who’d gathered found common ground, too: a love of family, sports, animals and video games, a wish to one day succeed. Charlie Branda walked around and listened. This is what she’d had in mind when she opened a small art studio on Chicago’s Sedgwick Street, smack in the middle of a great divide. The stretch of asphalt in the Old Town neighborhood of one of America’s most segregated cities starkly separates black and white, haves and have-nots. Could something like art really help bring them all together? 2,000 words with an abridged version of 900 words. Story, an accompanying photo package and video story by Martha Irvine.

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