Executive Director Shelbi Harris-Roseboro talks about opening a gallery during a pandemic and the arts space's first exhibition, 'In This Time,' featuring work from six Black artists

The plans for new South Side art gallery All People Arts were more than two years in the making, beginning as a project of Community Development for All People (CD4AP) and eventually becoming its own 501(c)(3) nonprofit with its own board, executive director — Shelbi Harris-Roseboro — and mission: to create art access on the South Side and beyond.

Eventually, Harris-Roseboro and the board knew they wanted to be in the first-floor space of Parsons Village II, a new senior living facility on Parsons Avenue. While the team waited for the apartment complex to be completed, they began doing workshops and other programming and events around the South Side until, finally, they got the keys to the new All People Arts space... during a global pandemic.

To Harris-Roseboro, the question then became: How do we channel our excitement about this new arts space in the middle of the COVID crisis, when large gatherings aren’t possible?

Over the weekend, Harris-Roseboro and the All People Arts board, which includes artists such as April Sunami, Adam Brouillette and Preshus Thompson, along with CD4AP’s John Edgar, the King Arts Complex’s Lyn Logan-Grimes and others, began to answer that question by debuting a 10-minute mini-documentary about the new gallery, and by opening up visits via appointment for All People Arts’ first exhibition, “In This Time.”

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The show, Harris-Roseboro said, is a response to the recent wave of racial justice protests, featuring six African American artists from the South Side or affiliated with the South Side. Each artist’s work is a response to a famous Nina Simone quote: “An artist’s duty … is to reflect the times.” In October, April Sunami will facilitate a discussion with the six artists about the topic and their work.

Next month, All People Arts will also begin its co-op with Third Way Cafe, a Hilltop coffee shop that will open a kiosk in the gallery space, which will then be open during the hours Third Way operates (and by appointment outside of those hours).

For now, though, All People Arts is taking a mostly virtual approach, Harris-Roseboro said, hosting workshops (such as a Sept. 30 class on fabric with Wendy Kendrick) and fundraisers via Zoom. “We are looking at a way to do mural collaborations outdoors. People feel more comfortable coming together outside, so we're taking a community mural approach to try to engage people face to face,” she said. “And then, of course, there's always appointments. We're looking for that personal approach, too — getting to know people and letting people know we're there. And we can really do that with the appointments.”

“We definitely had another plan,” Harris-Roseboro continued. “But [right now], everyone needs to switch it up and reassess how they do things.”