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Photo project to shine light on Englewood

December 21, 2011|By Tracy Swartz, RedEye

Englewood may see a virtual makeover next year if a photographer and community activist have their way.

Chicago Center for Urban Transformation founder Orrin Williams and Brooklyn photographer Emily Schiffer plan to install art on abandoned buildings in Englewood to inspire South Side residents to imagine what these spaces could be.

Schiffer and Williams, for example, proposed placing a sign on an abandoned storefront that says: "See potential. Envision a healthy corner store." The sign, accompanied by a poster of a balanced meal, would encourage onlookers to send a text message of support for a potential grocery store to the campaign.

The text messages will be gathered and sent to lawmakers, Schiffer said.

"This is basically an ad campaign. It's to get people thinking. Get people active," Schiffer said.

The "See Potential" project was born when Schiffer, 31, visited Chicago this summer to photograph the city for a food scarcity project. She met Williams, 62, who lives in Chicago Lawn and was raised in Englewood. His group focuses on food distribution on the South Side.

They partnered on the campaign, which they hope to launch this summer. Williams said they plan to track down owners of blighted buildings to get permission to install the art.

Englewood's population dropped by nearly 25 percent from 2010 to 2011, according to Census records, and the area has one of the highest concentrations of vacancies in the city, the Tribune reported.

The duo is seeking photographs of the South Side to display for their campaign and donations on crowd-sourcing website kickstarter. They hope to raise $10,000 by Jan. 18 to continue the project.

As of Tuesday evening, nearly $2,900 had been pledged. The campaign is seeking $10,000 by Jan. 18 to continue in its goal.

"If you live on the South Side like I do, you see all the work that needs to be done in terms of renovation, cleanup, transformation," Williams said.

tswartz@tribune.com | @tracyswartz

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