Hidden gem of Hyde Park provides space for South Side to connect through appreciation of art, music

Krishita Dutta, Arts Co-Editor

Nestled in Harper Court is a hidden gem of Hyde Park that aims to unite the neighborhood community through a collective appreciation for art and culture. 

Connect Gallery, located at 1520 E. Harper Court, is open from noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and during other days and times of the week by appointment only. 

The gallery is owned by Rob McKay and Eric Williams. According to Mr. McKay, who is also the lead curator, the gallery aims to provide a space for Black and brown community members who struggle to gain access to galleries and more recognized art spaces.

“You get a lot of times where you go into the North Side or a lot of other whiter neighborhoods, and as a Black person go into the gallery, your experience is not necessarily positive,” Mr. McKay said. “It’s an experience of art that’s not in your own experience with your own people.”

Furthermore, Mr. McKay said that a large factor in creating Connect Gallery with Mr. Williams was to defy the standards set for galleries in general. Overall, he wanted to foster connectedness within the observation of art that is conducted in galleries. 

Everything is art, and everything has value as far as creating a sense of connectedness goes. That’s why it’s called Connect Gallery.

— Rob McKay

“We wanted to create a gallery that goes against all of that and encourages you to come in, to talk, to hear the music playing,” Mr. McKay said. “Everything is art, and everything has value as far as creating a sense of connectedness goes. That’s why it’s called Connect Gallery.” 

As stated on the gallery’s website, the Connect Gallery defines itself as an “anti-gallery.”

The Connect Gallery hosts events of a wide variety, such as talk shows, record-release parties, open-mics and even comedy shows. 

“We don’t turn away much,” Mr. McKay said. “If it speaks to building community and culture, we’ll check it out and see how it fits with keeping the energy of the gallery high and positive. We want people to feel good in and out of the space.”

The Connect Gallery aims to use art as a catalyst for social change. Mr. McKay explained that it’s important for community members — especially young ones — to have access to a safe space that lets them tap into their creative side and unlock their passion.

“That’s why I always help people to see the nuances of who they are as a creative being, you know?” Mr. McKay said. “And to help them see how they can use their creativity to make their day-to-day interactions better, and to imagine and dream. Once you give them something that sparks that creativity within them, you’ve turned on a whole new element. You help them to find out what they really love.”