Since 1995, The Miracle Center has been inspiring personal growth and development in children in the Logan Square and Hermosa communities.
Through after-school and summer programming, The Miracle Center (2311 N. Pulaski Rd.) has provided over 12,000 students (ages 11-22) access to Theater and Performing Arts. The results show, as 96 percent of their kids go on to college.
LoganSquarist sat down with its founder, Mary Santana, to talk about TMC’s history, it’s future, and her experiences over this two-decade journey.
LoganSquarist: Tell us about The Miracle Center’s founding. What inspired you to open the center?
Mara Santana: Well, I was a single parent at the time, and I wanted to spend more time with my son. I had worked at a magazine for eight years or so and finally decided to start a day camp out of the basement.
Why call it The Miracle Center?
I was sitting in church one day and I heard the preacher say “miracle center” and it stuck out to me.
What were some of the early challenges getting the center up and running?
Initially, there were three specifically: space, funding, and staff. The early years were a struggle. In terms of space, we were constantly in different locations. We would move from churches and community centers to YMCA centers and boys’ clubs. We bounced around for about 15 years, and because of it, we were always running different types of programs for different spaces. When you don’t have your own space, it can be tough trying to be versatile and going into different communities while figuring out what works. We could finally start being consistent when we got our permanent space in 2014.
What are some of the challenges the center faces today?
Space, funding, and staff still. As you grow, you need more. We’re currently looking to purchase the building next door to create an arts incubator. The new 20,000 sq. ft. space will give us a 300-seat theater, rehearsal rooms, artist lofts, and even an internet café. On top of more space, we’ll be able to add staff to help artists develop business plans, graphic designers to help them with branding and website design. We’ll also have accounting staff, and a film director to assist with videos and headshots. We’re hoping that the new center will let us be a one-stop-shop for the arts, and we’ll be open to the children and their families.
What is the response you have seen from the community and families over the years?
We’ve had amazing responses, legislators and community partners right down to the children and their families. Each time we put on a show, we notice a new audience each time, ranging from young to old and from all cultures.
What are some of your favorite memories or productions at the Center?
Probably in 2014, when we got our first permanent space. We opened with a production of “In The Heights,” and the final song was “I’m Home.” When we sung that song, we felt it more knowing we had our own home finally.
What future plans are in store?
Alongside our arts incubator space, we’d like to open up a café so our teens could work there. We are also looking to train teens in arts management—including set design, lighting, costume, and administrative skills. There’s so many things we’d love to train, and this new space will allow us to start working toward that goal.
The Miracle Center recently opened their latest program, “In The Heights,” which tells the story of a New York neighborhood on the brink of change. Click here to view more about the show and to purchase tickets. The Miracle Center was also recently awarded a grant from ComEd and the League of Chicago Theaters for their 2018 production, “There’s a Coqui in My Shoe.”
Featured photo: Google Maps