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Art on Sedgwick Chicago Studio

Sedgwick Street divides one Chicago neighborhood. This art studio is bridging that divide.

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CHICAGO (Circa) — Sedgwick Street cuts a line between a neighborhood, a visible wealth gap divided by asphalt.

For the past few years, an art studio has attempted to bridge that divide.

Art on Sedgwick started in 2015, a casual attempt by new resident Charlie Branda to get to know her neighbors.

Branda says when she first moved to the wealthier side of Sedgwick, she was warned against straying into the lower-income, predominantly black part of the neighborhood across the street. She ignored the advice.

Soon, she was inspired to make others see the neighborhood as she did.

"I didn’t really know how to do art or ceramics,” said Branda, a 53-year-old mom and former commercial banker. “But I thought, well, that if people in the neighborhood could get together and start imagining new possibilities together, then maybe you could have a different kind of neighborhood than what we’ve always had. The way it is now isn’t the way it has to be.”

Eventually, enthusiasm for the art studio grew.

One 2017 art project paired students from a public and private school on either side of Sedgwick Street. Students took photos of each other and turned them into kites.

“They were reluctant to get involved with one another at first,” said middle school director Cory Stutts. But, she added, initial awkwardness was quick to dissipate. “It was fun hanging out, and that was one of the things that, I think, was a kind of equalizer.”

Neighborhood relations were and continue to be slow to change, Branda said, but the progress is palpable. “In some ways, I feel like we’ve accomplished so much in terms of building community and maybe changing what people are talking about a little bit. On the other hand, I feel like we’ve just barely scratched the surface.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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