Monica Haslip is the founder and executive director of Little Black Pearl. –brenda hull

Talk about Little Black Pearl and its purpose.

The organization started in 1994. Its primary mission is to teach the connection between art, education and entrepreneurship, offering a variety of programs to youth and adults that largely focus on visual arts and multimedia. We have after-school programs for the summer and a work force program for youth and adults. We are housed on the south side [of Chicago] on the corner of 47th and Greenwood.  I started the business in-house 11 years ago and built this facility, going from 2,500 square feet to 40,000 square feet. The space is an award-winning space. It’s a beautiful, contemporary space that houses five art industrial studios and music, graphics and technology studios.

The front space is a cafe. We wanted to create a space where the community can walk to, and it is a wi-fi hotspot. We also serve pastries, coffee, salads and small food items. In that space, also, is the gallery and exposition space. In the gallery, we highlight the works of local artists and children that are in the program and, in the cafe, we have a retail space where we sell a lot of the work that is created.

We do in-school programming for public and private schools. The primary focus is visual arts. We have a custom-order business, so we do a lot of work around the city with mural installations and public art.

In this space, because it is large, we have become known as the facility that everyone uses for special events. We host at least 150 events per year and have a large atrium and support spaces that are small spaces that people rent for bridal and baby showers and graduations.

What inspired you to start LBP?

I was trained as an artist and worked for BET and Johnson Publishing. I always had a passion for art and love for art and wanted to create something for African American children to see the impact that African Americans have made on art and how they can make a living as an artist. That’s why the curriculum at Little Black Pearl focuses on both art and business. Our tagline is “the Business of Art.”

What is it about Little Black Pearl that gets you up in the morning?

Well, it’s about the kids and seeing lives transformed. It is a safe place for young people who need refuge. I have been dong this for 17 years, and I am excited to see kids that have graduated from high school and college and who have families and are living a successful life. So, that keeps me getting up everyday.