LOGAN SQUARE – Community leaders are raising money to recoup thousands of dollars they spent to repair flood damage at Comfort Station, money they diverted from other programs to ensure the community art space could open for an exhibition earlier this month.
Logan Square Toilet Block and Preservation started a GoFundMe raise $5,000 for repair costs. The groups raised approximately $1,800 on Wednesday morning.
Sanitary bloc operates out of a 100-year-old city warming station at 2579 N. Milwaukee Ave. The arts organization hosts 150 to 200 events and gatherings each year, from art exhibitions and concerts to puppet shows and Sacred Harp singing group get-togethers.
The comfort station pipes burst during a cold spell in February. A neighbor noticed a steady stream of water coming out of the old building and alerted the comfort station team, executive director Jordan Martins said.
The water was “splattering and drenching the plaster walls,” Martins said. Supplies stored near the drains were destroyed. Comfort Station’s “player piano”, used by many musicians over the years, was also damaged beyond repair.
No one was in the building at the time of the flood because Comfort Station takes a break from programs in the winter, Martins said.
“In a sense, the timing was very good, but since we weren’t there regularly, we didn’t notice that our heating wasn’t working. If we had been in space, we would have caught this,” he said.
Martins said the flooding left them “scrambling” to pay for repairs. Comfort Station is a small nonprofit organization with a mostly volunteer staff funded by donations and grants. Like many artistic spaces, the association has struggled to survive the pandemic.
That’s when Comfort Station partner Logan Square Preservation stepped in to help.
The neighborhood group, which fought for the preservation of the old city building years ago and holds the lease on the property, has agreed to share the cost of the restoration work with Comfort Station. Each organization spent $2,500 to repair the building’s walls, floors and plumbing system.
Martins said they moved quickly to get the space back in place in time for Comfort Station’s first solo exhibition in early April. But each organization dipped into money for programs and other expenses – a “major setback”, he said.
With fundraising, the organizations hope to “replenish those budget lines” and keep the comfort station running so the art gallery and performance venue will serve the neighborhood for years to come, Martins said.
Any money raised beyond the $5,000 goal will go towards longer term upgrades. Although the city renovated the century-old building about 12 years ago, it still needs major work, including repointing, Martins said.
Comfort Station “is a public space in the truest sense of the word,” Martins said. “It’s owned by the city, it’s activated by members of the public, all of our programming is free, and most, if not all, of our programming is done by community members. We see it as part of the community in this really literal sense.
“This is a public service that we are trying to reactivate as much as possible. Any donation [neighbors] can give… will literally result in us doing more programming.
In addition to the GoFundMe, Martins said they plan to host a piano fundraiser to replace the waterlogged piano, which was donated to them about a decade ago. For this event, a group of musicians will play the piano – “as is, modifying it in some way and using microphones to capture the sounds” – before destroying it completely, he said. declared.
The piano fundraiser is one of many events planned at the Comfort Station this year. For the first time since the pandemic began, Comfort Station is starting to hold indoor events again, Martins said. Masks will be mandatory.
The Tudor-style comfort station is one of two remaining warming stations in Chicago, said Kate Paris of Logan Square Preservation. The former West Chicago Parks Commission built the Logan Square structure in the early 1920s, along with several others across the city, as a public restroom and warming center for people using the boulevards.
“It’s a way for people to preserve an important part of our history,” Paris said.
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