Month: February 2019

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 …

“Natural Wonder” at the Contemporary Art Center in Peoria

This review is part of our Sixty Regional project which partners with artists, writers, and artist-run spaces to highlight art happening throughout the Midwest and Illinois. Written by Jessica Bingham, artist, curator, and co-founder of Project 1612, this review examines “Natural Wonder”, a two-person exhibition by Bethany Carlson Coffin and Stephanie Sailer at the Contemporary Art Center in Peoria, Illinois. Distance, whether out of necessity or inability to be close, is the common thread within the works in the exhibition Natural Wonder currently at the Contemporary Art Center in Peoria, IL. As the elevator doors opened to reveal the exhibition, I felt instantly calm, yet curious. Curious about the strange forms living on the pristine white pedestals and lost within the intricate paintings and drawings that graced the walls of the gallery. The pieces spark a sense of wonder and yearning for answers about experiences we cannot possibly understand or completely fathom; they compliment each other—they are quiet, contemplative, and coexisting. The exhibition pairs together the delicate drawings and monochromatic paintings of Bethany Carlson Coffin and the supple mixed media sculptures of …

Art + Love: On Collaboration, Practice, Space and Relationships

In 2012, Sixty writer Zachary Johnson challenged “the image of the lone artist toiling away in their studio” with Art + Love, a series of interviews that asked artists and their partners to share how they make art, love, and partnership work. Every couple years we continue to revisit the conversation with a new group of artists, writers, designers, educators, and curators whose love for one another helps to fuel their life and work within and outside of the studio, exhibition space, stage, or page. This year we’re hearing from interdisciplinary artists Ayanah Moor and Jamila Raegan, Houston-based artists Lovie Olivia and Preetika Rajgariah, artists Will Bishop and Grace Needlman, curator Jennifer Sova and musician Tiana Jimenez-Srisook, artist Andrés Lemus-Spont and writer Marya Spont-Lemus, and designer Dan Sullivan and artist Edra Soto.   

Art + Love: Ayanah Moor + Jamila Raegan

As part of our Art + Love series, interdisciplinary artists Ayanah Moor and Jamila Raegan reflect on the ways that their distinct practices influence one another and the ways in which their relationship influences the work they make. On where it all started: Jamila Raegan: Ayanah and I met a little haphazardly during a visit she made to Brooklyn in April 2014 with a mutual friend of ours. Funny enough, they were crashing with me at my home. I remember so vividly the moment Ayanah and I met. I was working and Ayanah and our dear friend Alisha were picking up keys. Ayanah would say–which is true–that we met in front of the Biggie Smalls mural at the corner of Fulton and South Portland Avenues. It was a rare experience. I remember every little detail–the sun on her face, her eyes were stars, her smile (her gorgeous smile), and her tattoos. A first sight kind of love, truly. Ayanah Moor: I used to live in Pittsburgh and during that time I became really close friends with …

Art + Love: Marya Spont-Lemus + Andrés Lemus-Spont

As part of our Art + Love series, Marya Spont-Lemus and Andrés Lemus-Spont reflect on their experiences collaborating with one another and the ways in which their relationship has and continues to influence their individual practices. On where it all started: Marya Spont-Lemus: We met at Maria’s in Bridgeport, at a goodbye party for my co-worker. Though I liked my co-worker very much, I was only planning to go for a polite 15 minutes, and then continue on home to get work done on a Friday night. Andrés Lemus-Spont: I was biking around and wanted to hang out with Marya’s co-worker, who was my friend from architecture school. At the party, I started talking only to my friend, but pretty soon I noticed Marya. At first I didn’t see her as much as sense her. She just had this beautiful glow that I’d never experienced. M: I actually remember that you arrived right at 6 o’clock, because that’s when I’d been planning to leave. But something told me to stay—I saw your glow, too. A: When …

Art + Love: Jennifer Sova + Tiana Jimenez-Srisook

As part of our Art + Love series, Jennifer Sova and Tiana Jimenez-Srisook reflect on the ways in which they share space, share ideas, and hold deep admiration for one another’s work. On where it all started: Jennifer Sova: We met in a class at Columbia College in 2016. The class was called Women in Art, Music, and Literature which we think is hilarious being that we are women in art and music. It seems like a modern-day queer romantic comedy. We became fast friends and fell in love quickly, too. The things that first bonded us; music, laughter, books, soaking up the small things, and general curiosity are still the things that we stay up too late talking about. Tiana Jimenez-Srisook: Jenn and I met in college–– a fact that we both find quite silly given the cliché. We were in the same women’s studies course and coincidentally sat next to each other only to spark up a seamless bout of quick witty banter and conversations about big ideas, art, culture, politics, literature, food, …

Art + Love: Edra Soto + Dan Sullivan

As part of our Art + Love series, interdisciplinary artist Edra Soto and fabricator/designer Dan Sullivan talk about their distinct practices, the places where their ideas merge, and the ways their relationship has influenced their work. On where it all started: Edra: Dan and I met at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1998. I was a grad student and he was working at the registrar’s office. I remember seeing him for the first time and wondering to myself who he was. I looked at him for a while but he didn’t see me until later. I was standing in line to register for some courses and I remember he asked me to step over. I wasn’t fully aware, but soon enough I realized he pull me off the line asked me to have a seat at his desk. Nothing further than that. Some days later, I was walking all frazzled up down the admin office hallways and he saw me and immediately stopped me. He asked me what happen and I …

Art + Love: Lovie Olivia + Preetika Rajgariah

As part of our Art + Love series, Houston-based artists Lovie Olivia and Preetika Rajgariah discuss the early days of their once long distance relationship and how it feels to now be reunited in their home town while also sharing a studio space. On where it all started: Lovie Olivia: In May 2013 I found myself at a dance performance/rehearsal by Jasmine Hearn and Jon Shronks, two dear friends in the performing arts scene in Houston. Preetika was there as an event photographer and I connected with her presence immediately. We were introduced at the end of the performance. A few months later we learned that we were both instructors at the locally popular non-profit gallery and school, Art League Houston. Sometime after one of our our exhibitions, (I think mine) Preetika slipped in my DM on Facebook inquiring about my process of choosing models for my paintings, explaining that she was a model and available if I needed more (brown) subjects. We had that initial meeting at my studio about 6 months after because …

Art + Love: Grace Needlman and Will Bishop

 As part of our Art + Love series, interdisciplinary artist and educator Grace Needlman and theater artist Will Bishop share a little bit about how being partners influences their practices and their origin story. On where it all started: Grace: We met at Redmoon, a spectacle theater company that operated in Chicago from 1990 to 2015. I had just moved to Chicago and was interning at Redmoon for the summer. Will was the Associate Producer. So, he was kind of my boss–not directly, but close enough to joke about it. On our first date, we went to a concert at the Lincoln Hall. We were biking home together after the concert, and I hit a pothole under the bridge on Halsted just south of Milwaukee and took a nosedive. I was really embarrassed, so brushed it off like it was no big deal. I biked all the way back to Hyde Park, where I was living, with a quarter-sized hole in my knee. I couldn’t walk for 3 days, including my first day of work at …

Featured image: Fawzia Mirza. In this medium-close-up shot, Fawzia looks directly and confidently at the camera, smiling with pursed lips and pointing at the viewer with both hands. Fawzia wears a long-sleeved denim shirt with a blue-on-blue, camouflage-like print and the top few snaps unsnapped. The cuffs of her shirt-sleeves are folded back, and she wears several bracelets and rings made of silver or wood. Photo by Bradley Murray, cropped to fit. Courtesy of the artist.

Beyond the Page: Fawzia Mirza

“Beyond the Page” digs into the process and practice of writers and artists who work at the intersection of literary arts and other fields. For this installment, I interviewed Fawzia Mirza — actor, writer, producer, and “artivist” — about the relationship between her writing and performance, her creations’ many forms and media platforms, the role of comedy and collaboration in her work, and how she hopes her work impacts others. Our conversation took place remotely, with Fawzia responding via audio recording to a set of emailed questions. Find Fawzia on Twitter and Instagram @thefawz. “The Red Line” premieres on Sunday, April 28, on CBS. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.   Marya Spont-Lemus: I first became aware of your work several years ago, when you emceed TEDx Windy City, at which two of my students were speaking. I thought you were such a charming, energetic, bold, incisive yet kind and generous host, and it was so lovely to officially meet you a few years ago and to discover that you’re just as smart …

Intimate Justice: Cameron Clayborn

“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 Cameron Clayborn in his Bridgeport live-work studio space about popcorn ceilings, inner dialogue, and letting your freak flag fly.  This interview has been edited for length and clarity.  S. Nicole Lane: Are you from Chicago? If not, how did you end up here? Cameron Clayborn: I’m from Memphis. I was born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and then my parents moved me to Memphis. SNL: Cool. And do you live in Bridgeport? CC: Yeah. So this is a live-work space. Everyone who has a space here works here, except for one person. But she’s awesome. So she lives around the corner. SNL: And what did you study at SAIC? CC: I studied sculpture and sometimes sound. I never took a performance class except for one time, which was about the practicalities of being a performance artist. I don’t know, it just never felt …

You Can Fly Higher: An Interview with Chicago-based Street Artist Sentrock

Sentrock is the moniker of Chicago-based street artist Joseph Perez, who moved to the city from Phoenix, Arizona in 2012. Since then, Chicagoans have likely seen his signature murals of brown children in red bird masks adorning the walls of buildings all over the North, West, and South Sides. With public art now on display in multiple U.S. cities, Sentrock has still shown the most love for Chicago. His mural across the street from YolloCalli Arts Reach in Little Village in particular has become an important and inspiring fixture that the community members and the young artists who work at YolloCalli have come to admire. Sentrock may not create art to be inherently political, but that doesn’t mean his murals don’t deliver messages. Most of his public pieces contain slogans like “You Can Fly Higher,” “Stay Woke,” and “We Learned To Fly Without Wings” alongside the images of masked young people with black hair and brown skin. In Little Village, a largely Latinx immigrant neighborhood, residents get to see these hopeful messages paired with physical …

Free Write Arts & Literacy: Poems to Photos

As part of the Envisioning Justice Initiative, Sixty paired writers and photographers with each of Illinois Humanities’ selected community hubs: organizations working within communities around issues of incarceration and justice. One of those organizations is Free Write Arts & Literacy. Going on 19 years, Free Write has provided arts and literacy education to thousands of youth detained in the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, as well as providing employment and creative opportunities on the outside. A cornerstone of Free Write’s pedagogy is using poetry and personal narratives as a vehicle for both literacy and self-empowerment. In a society and system that is quick to apply ready-made ideas informed by race, class, and condition, on their lives and fates, Free Write encourages their students to “own their narratives” through telling their own stories. Below, you will find two poems written by Free Write students last year, prompted by Aracelis Girmay’s “Elegy in Gold.” Taking a cue from the New York Times series pairing photographs inspired by poetry, photographer Chelsea Ross created a series of images in response to the poems. The …