Year: 2019

Image: Installation shot of Gregg Bordowitz: I Wanna Be Well, 2019. © Gregg Bordowitz. Image courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Analog Love: Synching Up In the Time of Queerness

“Queer life and love in the 1980s was cruelly characterized by the knowledge that time was running out.” —Joshua Chambers Letson, After the Party: A Manifesto for Queer of Color Life What if queerness is not out of time? What if it is in fact deeply entangled in time, intimate with its intricate loops, its swells, its passing lulls? Consider the clock to be a geography of relation. To declare queer not out of time but in fact enmeshed with time is to dance towards becoming synchronous against the odds. Attuning across long distances, linking despite (or perhaps because of) grief. To fall in time is to fall into a love unrequited: time cannot love you back, cannot nurse your wounds, cannot even promise you company. Time is out to kill, racing against us. Even yet—we rush to its side, seeking its alliance at a lover’s deathbed or amidst the off-hours communion of the dance floor. + Lately I’ve been dancing with archives. Everything touches up with everything: I am experiencing what seems a surreal …

A portrait of Tara Aisha Willis, the Associate Curator of Performance at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Tara is standing with elbows on a ledge, hands up toward her face and fingers intertwined. She stands in a space where there are plants and golden yellow lights hanging from the ceiling. Photo by Kristie Kahn.

Dance Manifold: A Conversation with Tara Aisha Willis

“…completely new yet familiar territory.” These words echoed after I revisited the accompanying publication for Relations, a performance that brought together pioneering artists Bebe Miller, Ishmael Houston-Jones, and Ralph Lemon on the MCA Stage in November 2018. In her introduction for the publication, curator Tara Aisha Willis offers a series of questions and propositions that draw from the historically-anchored yet generative tone set by Miller, Houston-Jones, and Lemon, while also honoring the shapeshifting and indefinable nature of Black dance and movement practices. When considered in full, Willis, too, is the “new yet familiar” manifested in many ways. As a returning Chicago native whose dance career has developed largely outside of the city, there’s a fresh familiarity to her perspective. The new is also visible through her role as a curator of performance and when considering the artists and projects she is bringing to the MCA Stage. Then, an additional familiarity is present within her work due to an awareness of historical context, a body of knowledge that is harnessed, in part, through her work as …

Framing the Body: A Critical Look at Witkin’s Photographic Legacy

“Brilliant and divisive,” those were the words Catherine Edelman, gallery owner and panel moderator, used to describe acclaimed photographer Joel-Peter Witkin. The latest exhibition at Catherine Edelman Gallery, Joel-Peter Witkin: From the Studio, features more than 25 photographs, 80 drawings, as well as sketchbooks and journals, darkroom tools and cameras, letters, and contact sheets. But it was Witkins mission, “to create photographs that show the beauty of marginalized people,” and how he executes that aim was the primary topic of discussion for the ‘Otherness & Beauty’ panel hosted by the gallery on June 1. The panel included painter, writer and disability activist Riva Lehrer, art therapist Deb DelSignore, and art historian Mark B. Pohlad. Witkin, an American artist based in Albuquerque, photographs his subjects in carefully crafted settings and utilizes manual darkroom techniques to produce surreal images. The subjects are often “intersex, post and pre-op individuals, and people born with physical abnormalities.” Lehrer makes artwork depicting similar marginalized people, with one very important difference—she is a portrait artist. Lehrer works collaboratively with her subjects to …

Abundant & Diverse: An Overview of Visual Arts at Riverwest FemFest

Since 2015, Milwaukee’s Riverwest FemFest has become a popular and important festival within the city’s creative community, one that supports artists and musicians across multiple venues through concerts, performances, exhibitions, and workshops. As a platform for femme, gender non-conforming, non-binary, trans, POC, and womyn creators, FemFest acts as a fundraiser for various non-profits and donates all proceeds from the week-long event to local organizations that support womyn, LGBTQIA+ individuals, families, and marginalized groups in the city. The festival ran from May 26 – June 2 and this year, all proceeds were donated to Milwaukee Women’s Center, an organization that provides services to people who have been affected by domestic violence, addiction, mental health issues, homelessness, and poverty, and Diverse & Resilient, a non-profit organization that supports LGBTQ+ individuals through programs that encourage sexual health, build leadership skills and confidence, and provide anti-violence initiatives and support for substance abuse. Since its inception, FemFest has grown in size, concept, and location and now extends into neighborhoods beyond just the Riverwest community in Milwaukee, where it first got its …

Beyond Representation: The Syndicate’s First Read Festival Shows up for Trans* and Non-Binary Artists

Developing a new play takes work—and not just from the playwright. In a cash-strapped world, one where the arts are under constant threat from budget cuts, it’s difficult to find solid companies investing in plays, especially new ones. And even more rare are the companies specifically focusing on plays by womxn, queer, and trans* artists. The Syndicate is this company, equipped with a mission to foster ethical processes and equity. Though originally founded in 2014 in New York, they split a producing home with Chicago and have a presence in five cities worldwide. Through grants, fellowships, and awards they’ve been able to sustain work that pays their artists and collaborators.   This summer, lead producers Ellenor Riley-Condit, Hal Cosentino, and Denise Yvette Serna are hosting First Read 2019, the 2nd annual new play festival uplifting the work of non-binary and trans* artists. After sifting through dozens of play submissions with a team of volunteer readers, they selected four plays that will receive readings in Chicago this June. Tickets to each play are pay-what-you-can and not …

The Breathing Thing – An Interview With The Directors and Cast of “Parched”

Free Street’s offices and theater space are on the third floor of the Pulaski Park Center. It’s a labyrinth of a building, with staircases branching off, echoes from a linoleum gymnasium. Enough places to get lost. The office in which I meet director Katrina Dion and assistant director Xandra Starks has high ceilings and figures painted on the walls. Two couches and a coffee table. It’s comfy, unassuming. J: What was the impetus for this project? How did the content for this project get decided upon? Katrina: So every year, we do a ten month process with our youth ensemble. They range between thirteen and nineteen – this year it’s more between fourteen to eighteen. Every year we go to them with a question or an issue facing Chicago youth and they spend the next ten months in critical inquiry around that; doing interviews, doing research and then training, learning theater creation skills and then building that play. A couple years ago, we were trying to really think about the 2019-2020 seasons really deeply because …

June Art Picks

Our Art Picks are created in collaboration with The Visualist, Chicago’s leading visual arts calendar, and cross-promoted through Windy City Times, one of the longest locally-published LGBTQ weeklies with a national reach. Click here to get our Art Picks and latest articles delivered to your inbox monthly. Although there’s Pride all day, everyday at Sixty, we want to say happy Pride Month! To help you find the queer-loving, LGBTQIA+ events on our calendar, we’ve marked them with a little Pride love, a.k.a. you’ll see a flag flying next to the event information (🏳️‍🌈). This is a growing list, so check back often for new additions.   June Art Picks Through June 14thGoat Island World Premier PerformancesChicago Cultural Center: 78 E Washington StFree Through July 20thAbout Face: Stonewall, Revolt and New Queer Art 🏳️‍🌈Wrightwood 659: 659 W. WrightwoodFree May 26-June 2, 2019Riverwest FemFest 2019 🏳️‍🌈Various Locations, Milwaukee, WIFree May 25-June 29, 2019It grows betweenEfrain Lopez Gallery: 1959 W Erie StFree May 30, 2019Performing Queer Femme POC Identities On (& Off) the Page 🏳️‍🌈Hairpin Arts Center: 2810 N Milwaukee AveFree May …

Illustration by Tesh Silver.

Magic and Art: Celebrating the New Moon in Taurus

After a careful shuffle and posing a question out loud, the first card I pull is the Eight of Swords, showing sharp, dark purple criss-crossed sabers with the word “Interference” ominously written across the bottom. The second card I pull is the Prince of Swords, on it, a green tyrannical figure rides a chariot while holding the reins of three smaller figures, who are seemingly prisoners and propel the chariot forward. The Knight of Wands is next, featuring a figure in chainmail armor on a rearing horse in front of a glaring pyramid of flames. Upon first glance as a tarot novice, none of this is making me feel at ease. My card reader goes on to explain in depth what each card and its orientation in the spread could potentially mean for me, and I begin to understand that the iconography of each card may not be a literal representation of what’s going on in my life (much to my relief, as I was definitely concerned about the pyramid of flames in that last …

Jose Santiago Perez: The Sites and Sounds of Memory and Belonging

In Anne Carson’s essay “The Gender of Sound” she writes “every sound we make is a bit of autobiography. It has a totally private interior yet its trajectory is public. A piece of inside projected to the outside.” Carson builds upon these thoughts to create a framework that examines the cultural considerations and consequences of our sounds: what do we listen to, what do we censor? In a sense, Carson’s schema develops an account of value–what sounds do we listen to, what sounds do we remember, what sounds form a life? Viewing artist Jose Santiago Perez’s show PASSIVITIES, currently up at the Humboldt Park based Ignition Project Space, brought Carson’s ideas of aural intimacy to mind by virtue of the work’s inextricable entanglement with memory and the performance of memory. Though Carson is not explicitly engaged with in the exhibition, Santiago Perez’s use of craft and repetition render each piece a memory palace; every work endowed with the ghostly remnants of what was said and never said. Santiago Perez is an artist invested in understanding …

Image: Photo of the ensemble of "Parched" posed on the set. An actor stands center stage, looking straight ahead while holding a pitcher in front of their chest. They are surrounded by eight youths at various levels reaching longingly towards the pitcher, in their outstretched hands they each hold a water cup. Image courtesy of Joel Maisonet

Review: “Parched: Tales of Water, Pollution, and Theft” at Free Street Theater

I’m not saying that most Chicago theater is directionless and uncertain of what it’s trying to communicate. I’m not saying that it’s lacking in vitality. But if you’ve been in or around the community for more than a couple of years, you’ll start to notice a trend: feel-good-politics and virtue signaling taking precedent and place over well-articulated purposes and poetic truths (or truthful poetry). It’s the times, you know? Here we are, the 21st century, millennials searching for meaning and gen Z thirsting for justice, as the seeds of capitalism and white supremacy fulfill their nature as bloodthirsty mechanisms for deep extraction and a hollowing out of our planet, our souls, our home. What do we need other than the certainty of these things? So frequently, just the restatement of that conviction. And that seems to be enough for many people. I’m angry. I’m sad. If you’re reading this, I hope you’re angry and sad about what has been done to us. And I hope you recognize that reading this is not enough, nor is …

Image: Untitled, 2018. Graphite on paper, 30" X 40". Photo by Jasmine Clark. Image courtesy of the artist.

Seeing Signs: An Interview with Carris Adams

At least a year before the opening of her newest show, I met Carris Adams in her capacity as an arts administrator. Adams works as the General Manager of Chicago Art Department, an organization that provides space, support, and opportunities for artists. As the first Core Critical Writing Fellow at CAD, I got to see Adams regularly organize a stream of events and exhibits but all the fellows, myself included, also knew about Adams’ work as a visual artist. Her work has been exhibited in various spaces in Chicago, Texas, and New York, including The Studio Museum of Harlem. We took a moment to meet near CAD and her studio at La Catrina Café to talk about her upcoming show. Carris Adams’ solo exhibition Doubletalk is her first exhibition with Chicago’s Goldfinch Gallery. The exhibition will be on view from the opening reception on Saturday, May 11 until Saturday, June 22, and a conversation between Carris Adams and Jinn Bronwen-Lee will take place on June 8, 2 p.m. Adams’ drawings create pressures and textures with …

It’s not you, it’s me. No, it’s definitely you.

This is not a calling out. This is a reckoning. Really for me more than anything else. This is the break up text no one asked for. Disclaimer 1: Before anything, I should apologize to Anne Dessing because this really is not about you, or your work. You’re just a perfect foil. This is really about me. For context, Dessing was the 2018-2019 Garofalo fellow at the University of Illinois at Chicago. A highly competitive, highly-coveted fellowship that comes with a year-long teaching position in the architecture department, an exhibition, and a presentation at the Graham Foundation. The exhibition*, which sits adjacent to UIC’s faculty office, consists of a series of large-format, Ruscha-esque pictures of windows and mirrors, reflecting images of the sky, other buildings, or their own architectures. Summarily and literally, its self-reflective. The title of the exhibition is a Sun Ra quote: “And then when I went to Chicago, that’s when I had these outer space experiences and went to other planets.” The quote/exhibition title, the only text in the entire space, is printed …

Intimate Justice: Andrew Bearnot

“Intimate Justice” looks at the intersection of art and sex and how these actions intertwine to serve as a form of resistance, activism, and dialogue in the Chicago community. For this installment, I looked at Andrew Bearnot’s exhibition at the Leather Archives + Museum, “FRUITING BODIES” and had a Q+A interview in his Hyde Park apartment. There is no denying how special the Leather Archives + Museum is to the Chicago queer community. With vests, sex toys, photographs, and original artwork on display, queer history (though mostly male-orientated) is exhibited through kinks and specific sub-groups. Signifiers like patches, buttons, pins, and labels illustrate the profound LGBTQ community across the country. Small rooms, narrow hallways, and personal items make up the intimate space in Rogers Park. Andrew Bearnot’s exhibition FRUITING BODIES shares this same intimacy, as you must walk down a narrow staircase into a gallery that, although small, exhibits a wide range of objects. The exhibition includes works of glass and paper by Bearnot as well as objects chosen from the collections of Robert Gaylord, Jim …

Image: Video still from Hương Ngô's, In the Shadow of the Future, 2014-19. Still shows someone dressed up in a cosmonaut outfit standing in the foreground next to a large white geometric structure. In the background is a building with plants dangling out the windows, with architecture in a similar triangular style as the white structure as well as Hương's central installation. It is a sunny day out in the photo. Image courtesy of the artist.

In the Shadow of the Future: Interview with Hương Ngô

The colorful folded paper triangle takeaways prepared by Hương Ngô’s for her current exhibition “In the Shadow of the Future” open up to describe a narrative about Vietnamese fighter pilot Phạm Tuân heading to space under a Soviet program in 1979, the same year that thousands of people fled persecution in Vietnam to resettle in a suburb of Paris. Hương brings these two migration stories together under the same roof, connecting their journeys after 40 years of separation. In the center of the room at 4th Ward Project Space, is a bright architectural installation made of collided triangular forms. Some have windows, and others are closed off in their own corners and have gardens of greenery. Two video screens protrude from the top of the piece, tilted up to the sky, and another is ingrained into the building itself, posited inches from the ground. On the wall of the gallery is a newspaper article cast in concrete from the New York Times regarding Phạm’s mission with the text slightly deteriorated. The environment construed by Hương …

Composition and Improv: Interview with William Pearson

This is an excerpt from Sight Specific’s interview with sound artist William Pearson. Presented through Sixty Regional. In partnership with pt.fwd, a new series of contemporary music and sonic arts performances featuring new work by local and regional artists in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois, Sight Specific will be publishing conversations between the featured artists and pt.fwd director Eddie Breitweiser. William Pearson (Champaign-Urbana, IL) will be performing on Saturday, May 4, 2019 at 8pm at the McLean County Arts Center. All pt.fwd performances are free and open to the public. Follow pt.fwd on Facebook and Instagram for more information, including upcoming performance dates. Eddie: Part of the charge of pt.fwd is to find a diverse group of local and regional artists and musicians and to challenge them to bring something new to an open-minded audience. Would you mind speaking a bit about your background, your practice, and historically what we’re going to be hearing? What have you prepared for us and how does it both relate to your practice as a whole and indicate where you’re going next? Will:  Yeah. …

May Art Picks

Our Art Picks are created in collaboration with The Visualist, Chicago’s leading visual arts calendar, and cross-promoted through Windy City Times, one of the longest locally-published LGBTQ weeklies with a national reach. Click here to get our Art Picks and latest articles delivered to your inbox monthly. This is a growing list, so check back often for new additions. May Art Picks May 1-31, 2019 Jenny Lam (for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month) Bessie Coleman Library: 731 E 63rd St Free May 1-31, 2019 May Butoh Non festival ! Various Locations Various Costs Wed, May 1, 4:30-6pm Vivek Shraya: Trisha The Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality: 5733 S University Ave Free Wed, May 1, 5-7pm Robert Pruitt: Art and Afrofuturism DePaul Art Museum: 935 W Fullerton Ave Free Wed, May 1, 6-9pm Frontier in Body Outerspace: 1474 N Milwaukee Ave $200 Thur, May 2, 8am-5pm Centennial Colloquium on Dewey: Then and Now University of Chicago Laboratory Schools: 1362 E 59th St Free Thur, May 2, 4:15-6pm SAIC Fire Sale Spring 19 School of the Art Institute …

In Our Bodies, Together: Disability Art Showcase and Maker-Space

Creative, connecting, and celebratory—these were the intentions laid out for people at the start of the Disability Art Showcase and Maker-Space on April 16th. The event organizer, Bri Beck, a disability artist/advocate and art therapy graduate student from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, hosted between sixty and seventy participants at Access Living, downtown Chicago’s main Center for Independent Living, for an evening of art-making and community-building.   Systemically divided groups of disabled people, veterans, scholars, art therapists, artists, activists, and more, were invited to utilize the arts “to share the varied story of disability and to bring together those that are disabled and those that work within this community to further grow and define a collective voice and community”—per Beck’s design. Image: Two people, one kneeling and one standing, work together on a colorful wall tapestry made of various fabric strips. Photo by Ryan Edmund. Guests contributed to a group tapestry, created disability pride buttons, wove fibers alongside someone new, participated in a #DisabledIAm photobooth, and engaged with artwork created by disabled artists …

When Art Meets Design: An Overview of the All-City High School Visual Arts Exhibition

Walking into the CPS All-City High School Visual Arts Exhibition, guests are greeted with an electrifying blue color on parallel zigzag walls, playful typography, and an array of artwork by high schoolers throughout Chicago. With every turn, there’s an attention-grabbing piece of art or something to interact with. The team at the Design Museum of Chicago has built its reputation around creating memorable and rewarding experiences, with this exhibition inviting the city’s young artists to reap the benefits of its thoughtful execution. DCASE has brought together the CPS Department of Visual Arts and the Design Museum of Chicago to organize two exhibitions: the All-City High School Visual Arts Exhibition and the All-City Elementary School Visual Arts Exhibition. The collaboration has sparked an overwhelming excitement over the possibilities within both organizations. “Everyone was so excited, it was like the roof was going to blow off the building,” exclaimed Tanner Woodford, Founder and Executive Director of the Design Museum. Having a show that was inclusive and representative of as many types of students as possible was at …

Identity and Struggle: Interview with Sam Kirk

In Sam Kirk’s shared Pilsen studio at the Chicago Art Department, there are desks and a couple of small colorful portraits on the wall. They serve as a sharp contrast to the white walls accustomed to a flurry of monthly exhibits. One of the walls is a high partition that nearly hides the small but clearly busy space. The heavy table in the center of the work studio holds a work in progress that reverberates with the bright color choices and the distinct, curved lines that are a signature of Kirk’s style. However, each segment is glass cut then soldered into place by the dark lines that Kirk might normally reinforce with a smaller brush dipped in black paint, if she were working solely on canvas. Kirk’s work with glass has not only recently become part of the permanent collection at the National Museum of Mexican Art, but has become an identifiable style that she shares in public murals, exhibits, commissioned work, and even enamel pins and greeting cards. Her upcoming show “The Alchemy of …

Smiling Behind the Sun: An Interview with Eric Blackmon

Sixteen By Eric Blackmon 15 years, 7 months, 4 weeks, 1 day, 16 hours, and 33 minutes to be exact. 5,724 dreadful days, 137,416 and a half hours, 8,244,993 miserable minutes. And I won’t forget a second of it. I missed 66 of my kid’s birthdays, 337 holidays, 16 vacations, 14 graduations, 11 funerals, First steps, first words, all of my 20s, half of my 30s, most of my life. I lost everything. Every dime I had, four appeals, friends, family, my fiancé, my relationship with my kids. At times I lost faith, Other times I lost hope, A few times I ever lost myself, But I survived. I survived the conditions. I survived the ornery, tyrannical officers; some wolfish, vulturous inmates. A stabbing, being jumped, two black eyes, two busted lips, one chipped tooth, a busted head, 6 stitches, 1 broken nose, 1 fractured arm, 1 concussion. The suffering, the pain, the loss. But I overcame. I endured. By never hearing, never seeing, never speaking, never caring, never feeling, never loving, never resting, never …

#abovetheclouds: Studio Visit with Molly Markow

This is an excerpt from Sight Specific’s studio visit with artist Molly Markow. Presented through Sixty Regional. In her recent works, Markow skillfully balances scenes of sublime natural (or “natural”) beauty within the constraints of manufacture. These scenes–a white-sand beach with yawning palms, a fluorescent sunset bleeding across the horizon, a deep-green bed strewn with pillows of searing calendulas–provoke deeply-rooted physiological responses of the human subject in nature. But feelings of serenity, of tropical escape, or of wholistic unity (dasein, or being-in-the-world) are subverted by the infinite trappings of contemporary life: in Paradise (2018) the beach, printed on a Walmart shower curtain layered with a soft pink latex paint, is seen vaguely as rectangles where paint has not been applied, like disjointed pieces of an exploded puzzle. In Sun-baked (2019) the sunset, painted onto the plaster cast of the inside of a baking pan, is miniaturized to the size of a laptop that’s been rotated into portrait mode (Given the vitriol of online comments when an uploaded video is shot vertically instead of horizontally, imagine the response …

Fulfilling Fantasies: Contemporary Chicago Drag Works at Hokin Gallery

Visual artist, performer, and curator Kelly Boner has appropriately given herself the title of ‘Bubblepop Electric Creative Powerhouse’ with her own aesthetic and drag influences stemming from eclectic sources ranging from Georgia O’Keefe to anime. Boner’s curatorial project and exhibition Fulfilled Fantasies: Contemporary Drag Works, currently at Hokin Gallery at Columbia College, features photography where the image-making process is a collaboration between the photographer and subject. With both the photographer’s eye and the creative vision of the performer forming the final photograph, together they create a cocktail of colorful illusion, flawless execution, and original looks that capture a personality and/or character fully. In this interview, Kelly Boner discusses the endless and diverse talent in Chicago’s drag scene, the importance of representing it in non-traditional spaces, and the ways in which gender can be “both a prison and a palace.” This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Christina Nafziger: Let’s begin with your own artistic practice. Can you tell me a bit about your practice as a performer and drag queen? What attracted you …

Intimate Justice: Vesna Jovanovic

“Intimate Justice” looks at the intersection of art and sex and how these actions intertwine to serve as a form of resistance, activism, and dialogue in the Chicago community. For this installment, we talked to Vesna Jovanovic via email about medical illustrations and the act of drawing.  S. Nicole Lane: I think I saw your work a few years ago actually (I think at the Museum of Surgical Science?), and recently stumbled upon it again thanks to the internet. I’ve been interested in your attention to bodily subjects. Can you discuss how your work relates to sex and anatomy and why those topics interest you? Vesna Jovanovic: My focus on bodily subjects developed slowly over time. Many years ago, at SAIC, I took an experimental drawing class with Barbara Rossi. She asked us to create something along the lines of a Rorschach test and then draw directly on top of the inkblot. I was working a day job in an R&D laboratory at the time, so my mind was saturated with lab equipment and glassware. …

The Art of Styling: A Peek into Gilda’s

Between the hum of Anita Baker and the rustle of clothes hangers and metal is the personality of Gilda Norris. It’s snowing as I walk across the street from my apartment to Gilda’s shop on 55th street in Hyde Park. It’s a garden floor space—take a few steps down and you’re in a sea of clothing. It’s small and intimate, making it hard to not brush past fabrics, sequins, and buttons. In the summer months you can count on spotting Gilda standing on the steps of her shop. Leaning against her railing, she always looks effortlessly cool. Her stance itself is an advertisement to pop into the shop. But today we are on the other side of the beaches and drips of sweat of summer. We are shuddered indoors and grasping for any hint of Vitamin D. I quickly hustle inside of Gilda’s, a solace from the wetness of Chicago, the cocoon of clothing creating a sense of comfort and nostalgia.  This interview has been edited for length and clarity.  Gilda Norris: I was born and …

From the South Side to the South and Back: An Interview with Nichole Carter of Bright Star

Creating the right recipe of offerings for the families in your community isn’t an easy task, but that’s what Bright Star Community Outreach works to do everyday in Bronzeville. Providing everything from family service and parent education to workforce development, trauma counseling, and advocacy opportunities, Bright Star takes a holistic approach to their work and wraps their arms all the way around those who walk through their doors for support or service.  A born-and-raised Chicagoan, Bright Star’s Nichole Carter moved to Knoxville, Tennessee as a teenager, then, after acceptance into Spelman she moved to Atlanta. After graduation she spent time working in property management, specifically in mixed-income housing. Eventually, what she learned during her studies and work in the South would make its way to the South Side of Chicago through a position as the Director of Community Strategy and Development at Bright Star.   As the person at the helm of Bright Star’s community programs, she was the one who took a leadership role when Bright Star became one of seven community hubs for Envisioning Justice, a program initiated by Illinois Humanities …

Piece of Mind: The Growth of a Supportive and Nurturing Arts Community

When I first moved to the Midwest and began settling into my new home in Peoria, I was immediately captured by the growing art community. Being a part of academia for so long, I had not yet lived somewhere with an arts community that developed outside of a university or college. I attended my first First Friday in Peoria, a local event with gallery crawls, studio visits, and openings, meeting so many people pursuing their passion in this city. The variety of artists at various points in their career, doing so many different things, truly astounded me. There were local artisans creating wares and goods for the community, artists making a living off of their work by selling at fairs and local businesses, academics making their work and passing their knowledge on to their pupils, artists maintaining a studio practice and taking advantage of all of the space and resources in the community, and those who were new, attending their first events and figuring out their voice in the art-ecosystem. The variety of people working in such …

How La Villita Envisions Justice: A Reporter’s Reflections

Since I began covering the Envisioning Justice initiative in Little Village in Spring 2018, something that Open Center for the Arts Founder and Executive Director J. Omar Magana told me has stayed with me. He said that he sees the Chicago neighborhood – where, in 2004, he opened his community art center – as a world-class village. It took me almost a year of meeting and speaking with artists and activists who live and work in La Villita, to understand what he meant. As part of the cohort of journalists documenting the ways Chicagoans have harnessed art to address criminal justice issues in their communities, I’ve had the extraordinary privilege to learn from the people at the intersections of this work. Little Villagers specifically represent a unique approach to community organizing – one that embraces interracial solidarity, and cross-issue advocacy. Holding power brokers accountable feels particularly salient in Little Village. The creeping threat of gentrification is still somewhat distant here, unlike the neighboring area of Pilsen, where brand new luxury apartments share blocks with single …