How the Mosaic Hub can help North Chicago shine brighter


December 2017

Daniel Hartman is hesitant to begin a conversation by talking about North Chicago’s challenges. “My wife and I love our city. We could have chosen to live anywhere, but we love our friends here, and the city has a rich history.

“North Chicago has a great youth center, newly opened banquet halls and a freshly renovated public library. While recognizing the strengths of these places, we feel a new relationship-centered gathering space—a place where we can grow and dream together—will also benefit the community. That’s the vision for the Mosaic Hub.”

Hartman (above, far left) is the director of Mosaic House Ministries, located in StudioNorth’s hometown of North Chicago, Illinois. He’s currently leading a drive to build the Mosaic Hub, a future gathering space that will occupy a vintage building in the heart of the city.

Renovating the building is a grand vision—and a costly one. StudioNorth is proud to dedicate our 2018 holiday gift to helping defray the cost of transforming this building into the Mosaic Hub.

From library to community center

The neo-classical building at 1645 Lincoln Street was built in 1928 as the North Chicago Library. In the 1960s, the nationally recognized Angel Drill Team moved in, and the building became a touchstone for the community’s young people for more than four decades.

With new occupants in 2015, however, the sump pump failed and a mold infestation made the building uninhabitable. The city considered tearing it down, but Mosaic House stepped in to take on the responsibility of restoring it.

We toured the building with Hartman, feeling his vision for the building’s future populate the spaces with light and life. It’s easy to imagine:

  • The dining room, table set for 10, bubbling with conversation and steaming with warm soup from …
  • … the adjacent kitchen, where local teenagers cook alongside ministry volunteers, taking turns washing the pots and pans.
  • At one end of the spacious front room, kids hang out, laughing at their video game failures and triumphs.
  • At the other end, local residents browse an exhibit of art created by North Chicago students.
  • Downstairs, a comfortable, five-bedroom dormitory awaits the ministry’s community leaders.

Today the building’s interior is chilly, stripped down and ragged. Demolition is done, but much work remains on infrastructure and mechanicals, not to mention appliances, drywall and paint. But outside, the building looks as solid and stately as it did in 1928. It has the look of a building that can be the foundation for an entire community.

StudioNorth designer Stacy Lubin, who lives just a few blocks away, says, “I used to walk by and say, ‘What is that building? I want to teach art there!’” She might have her chance someday soon.

“Hope can break in”

There are people in the community who say this building saved their life,” Hartman says. “We want to honor that history and do our best to continue this legacy. Young people need to be involved with something positive. A lot of kids growing up in North Chicago just need someone to tell them, ‘I believe in you, and I see your potential.’”

Kids in North Chicago face the challenges common to many communities at a lower socio-economic level—under-funded schools, unstable homes, hunger, and various forms of violence. Hartman says some of the issues can receive disproportionate press, though he acknowledges, “The trauma from violence doesn’t go away.”

He adds, “Many youth can go either way. But when they have something positive in their lives, they can see themselves in the future. We want to have that kind of impact. Spiritual power and study can expand the possibilities here. Additionally, mentors in the ministry are profoundly shaped by their involvement with the youth. We truly become a mosaic of people.”

Asked about the building’s legacy as a one-time library, he says, “It’s about learning and expanded possibilities. Hopelessness is a big challenge for many here, but when you’re exposed to new information, your mind changes, and hope can break in.”

On a sunny late-fall day, light from four majestic arched windows bathes the main room. The windows are built to swing open onto the compact lawn on Lincoln Street.

“Can you imagine these windows open on a summer evening?” Hartman muses. “We could have live music inside and a barbecue out on the lawn, with the music just filling the street. People could just walk by, stop in and enjoy one another’s presence.

“That’s what we want this place to be.”

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