Student Stories

You Are Here

One image stands out among fourth-year Cela Sutton’s Orientation Week memories: a black-and-white photo of the Checkerboard Lounge, a famous South Side spot for jazz musicians in the mid-1970s.

Sutton has been thinking about that jazz club a lot lately.

The photomontage was part of You Are Here, a documentary about the University of Chicago’s historic relationship with its neighboring communities that has been shown to incoming students since 2006. Now, Sutton has been tasked with researching and producing a sequel to the film with the goal of introducing students to the issues that shape their new community.

To do this, Sutton is partnering with Ben Kolak, AB’06, the creator of You Are Here, to produce the updated documentary, to be called You Are Here Too. The pair will follow the structure Kolak created in his original film by selecting case studies to exemplify larger social and political issues, from urban education to health care.

Just as photos of the historic jazz club illustrated a story about the complex struggles facing community development leaders, Sutton plans to produce a broad picture of life on the South Side that addresses current matters, from the developments at Harper Court to the birth of the Logan Arts Center.

“The original version of You Are Here has a superb historic perspective and ends with one current example of University of Chicago involvement in the community: one charter school,” according to Wallace Goode, Director of the University Community Service Center, who is Sutton’s project manager.

“Since then, we’ve added three more charter schools, we have doubled our number of Community Service RSOs, we have established the Woodlawn Collaborative and developed Chicago Studies—these are just a few examples of how the University has in the last four years expanded its civic engagement within the city of Chicago.”

To cover this range of topics, Sutton said she is dividing the film into four areas: education, health, community development and the arts.

“We’re trying to make each [story] transition into the other. You Are Here ended with a snapshot of one of the Charter schools, so we’re opening up with the charter schools and the Urban Education Institute,” she said.

The film will touch on local arts organizations such as the Hyde Park Art Center and the Little Black Pearl, as well as the University’s decision to build the new South Campus Residence Hall in Woodlawn, the neighborhood directly south of campus.

This means interviewing everyone from Vice President for Student Life Kim Goff-Crews to Wardell Lavender, the self-described “Mayor of Woodlawn.”

Sutton is rising to that challenge.

“My main goal is to show a balanced piece, and a key piece that wasn’t in the first documentary was the student leaders who are involved in these issues,” Sutton said. She says Project Health and Art Should, both RSOs that work with community members, will play important roles in the film.

“Most students who come here aren’t from Chicago, or even from Illinois, and especially not from the South Side, which is totally different from any other part of Chicago,” Sutton explained. “We want students to take advantage of living in such a diverse and interesting place.”