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Marwen Expansion

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Expanding art-making opportunities.

Founded in 1987 in a one-room art studio, Marwen has a mission to educate and inspire under-served youth through the visual arts. Marwen offers free, professional-caliber after-school arts programming and college and career support to students in grades 6-12, filling the void left behind by the gutting of public school arts programs.

For 15 years, Marwen’s physical presence to the public and neighborhood went largely unnoticed. As an internalized tenant on two floors of a four-story industrial loft building, the ambitious and inspiring center for visual arts wasn’t apparent from the outside. The purchase of the total building and adjacent lot allowed Marwen to expand its site to create a more visible Arts Campus, providing a beacon for the arts and education community.

The new campus aims to be a cohesive learning community that serves as a cornerstone of arts education for diverse communities throughout Chicago. The program includes a renovated main public gallery for student work, a student and family lounge, alumni gallery, library, administrative offices, and nine state-of-the-art instructional studios for painting, printmaking, photography, graphic design, film, animation, textile arts, sculpture, and ceramics. The expansion included a new entry and parking court, a 950 square-foot steel-and-glass multiuse loggia space, an additional 15,000 sf of new and renovated studio spaces, as well as new windows, HVAC, roof, solar panel array, and building signage. The third floor now features an entirely new technology suite with three studios, including one outfitted with desktop computers, one with iPads, and a combination darkroom/digital photography studio. In the basement, improvements include a ceramics studio that has nearly doubled in size, a dedicated fashion and fiber arts studio, and a built-out sculpture studio with a full whiteboard wall and wet room.

The existing building was mined for its beauty. Floors were gutted to expose a raw structure organized by heavy timber columns. Tooled concrete floors were poured to provide appropriate sound deadening and to complement the existing brick masonry and Douglas fir beams. The architectural palette is spare and quiet, allowing artwork to be the focus.

To learn more about Marwen’s mission visit their website here.

Architect: Wheeler Kearns Architects
Structural: Thornton Tomasetti
General Contractor: Power Construction
MEP: Design Build
Civil: Terra Engineering
Landscape: Wolff Landscape Architecture
Lighting Consultant: Lux Populi
Photography: Steve Hall / Hedrich Blessing
Aerial Photography: Soaring Badger Productions