This mural at the 345 Art Gallery was created by Damon Lamar Reed and kids in After School Matters.

This mural at the 345 Art Gallery was created by Damon Lamar Reed and kids in After School Matters.

Provided

Chicago cop uses his West Side art gallery to encourage kids to ‘keep climbing’

Corry Williams opened the 345 Art Gallery aiming to provided a ‘destination’ for the neighborhood, through murals, classes, other events.

SHARE Chicago cop uses his West Side art gallery to encourage kids to ‘keep climbing’
When Corry Williams was converting an old West Side church into an art gallery, he noticed a 9-year-old girl named A’mya peeking in the window every day. Now, five years later, A’mya’s artwork is a permanent fixture of his 345 Art Gallery.

Williams says that’s what he wanted the gallery to do — bring people in the neighborhood together, especially children, which he aims to do through classes, community events, murals and field trips.

Chicago’s murals and mosaics sidebar

Chicago’s murals & mosaics

Part of a series on public art in the city and suburbs. More murals are added every week.

Over the last five years, Williams has juggled the gallery at 345 N. Kedzie Ave. and collecting with his work as a police officer, which he’s been for more than 20 years. But once he walks inside the gallery, he says, he’s a regular guy, not a cop.

“It’s Corry Williams at the gallery, it’s not Officer Williams,” he says.

A’mya walked past the 345 Art Gallery every day during construction. Now, her artwork is a fixture of the gallery.

A’mya walked past the 345 Art Gallery every day during construction. Now, her artwork is a fixture of the gallery.

Provided

Charmaine Gardner, the gallery’s events manager, says Williams’ desire to improve his community through art stems in part from his work as a police officer.

Charmaine Gardner (left) and Corry Williams organize field trips and art classes at 345 Art Gallery for kids.

Charmaine Gardner (left) and Corry Williams organize field trips and art classes at 345 Art Gallery for kids.

Provided

“He sees the community in an unfiltered look, so he knows what the community needs, and he takes on that responsibility humbly,” Gardner says.

Through art, Williams says, kids learn to process their “pain and exposure” to things like drugs and violence.

“Art is letting kids know that, despite the adversity they’re faced with, they still gotta rise,” he says. “Keep climbing. Don’t give up.”

Williams says he wanted to “build a destination” in East Garfield Park. “Sometimes, people say, ‘This is so nice it should be downtown,’ ” Williams says. “No, it should be here, right here, where it’s at.”

The sorts of art displayed and taught in classes at the gallery varies, and the exhibits rotate. The exterior of the building features murals and mosaics.

One mural, by Traz Kozcacuauhtli Juarez, features the Chicago lakefront and skyline.

A mural outside the 345 Art Gallery on the West Side shows the Chicago lakefront and skyline.

A mural outside the 345 Art Gallery on the West Side shows the Chicago lakefront and skyline.

Provided

Another, a collaboration between artist Damon Lamar Reed and kids in an After School Matters program, includes variations of the word “rise” and children standing on a building.

Reed says the murals — another one is planned, though the gallery is closed for now because of the coronavirus shutdown orders — have drawn people to the gallery and sparked conversation about art.

“People who walked by, we would have discussions with them about how the mural was impacting them,” he says. “People would say, ‘I didn’t know there was an art gallery here,’ and it really does a good job of creating a culture.”

Click on the map below for a selection of Chicago-area murals

The Latest
The Hawks battled hard in the third period but in the third period only, ultimately falling 5-4 for their eighth straight defeat.
Will Smith sticks to Movie Star mode as a family man dodging hunters, bullets, a gator and a snake while fleeing slavery.
While Zach LaVine still was trying to figure out a way to find his timing and end an eight-game shooting slump, Booker was showing the Bulls what a max-contract shooting guard should do, lighting them up despite playing only three quarters.
Anthony Demirov is just a sophomore, but he has the scoring ability to carry his team for a crucial quarter and the confidence and resolve to knock down free throws with the game on the line.