Old Town School : A New Place to Play

BY DAVE HOEKSTRA Staff Reporter/dhoekstra@suntimes.com January 6, 2012 3:16 pm

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A trio of concrete panels highlight the exterior of the new Old Town School East Building, 4545 N. Lincoln Ave. The panels are bold and muscular in a Chicago way, but they celebrate the tender diversities of music. When combined, the panel depict the word "music" in 28 different languages.

Stylized hands spell the word in American Sign Language.

Another one spells "music" in Braille.

There's Cherokee, German, Greek, Korean and more.

The $16 million building opens its doors to all walks of life 10:30 am Monday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and the blessing of the beige brick exterior with a sing-along.

The three-story school is across the street from the current Old Town School of Folk Music, which will remain unchanged. The school currently serves 700 classes weekly with 7,000 students across the street and at 909 W. Armitage, where it has been since 1968. The children of President Barack Obama, Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and former Gov. Rod Blagojevich all have attended classes at the school.

The Old Town School held an open competition for artists to design the panels. Chicago artist Margaret Derwent Ketcham captured the winning concept.

"Folk Music is a commonality across all cultures,' said Derwent Ketcham, who has done panels at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. "As the culture of Chicago gets larger, the music naturally gets larger and more inclusive."

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