All posts tagged: community engagement

Encircling Community with Circles & Ciphers: An Interview with Steve Serikaku

Within Circles & Ciphers‘ programming, Community Peace Circle is a long established institution in both the neighborhood of Rogers Park and the city of Chicago. This space represents my earliest interaction with the organization and provided me with a foundational understanding of circle facilitation. Circles & Ciphers presently offers four types of circles on a weekly or biweekly basis to accommodate a range of different social and gender identities: Young Men’s, Women of Color, Freestyle, and Community. Community Peace Circle offers a flexible format which caters to the broadest range of identities and ages allowing these groups to interact and share space with one another. In order to further understand the types of people who give shape and meaning to the Community Peace Circle, I wanted to interview attendees to see what drew them into the space and what keeps them returning. This interview was conducted with Steve Serikaku, a local resident of Edgewater who is also involved with several social justice efforts that align with his Unitarian Universalist faith doctrine. Mike Strode: How are you …

A Win for Humanity: Interview with Dominique Steward of BBF Family Services

Dominique Steward and I met at the first of several open houses to be held at BBF Family Services this year as part of the Envisioning Justice initiative. Entitled “Powerful Platforms: a Community’s Call to Action,” the open house was designed to bring awareness to the concerns central to Envisioning Justice, which invites Chicagoans from around the city to address the impact of incarceration in their communities. (I also met BBF Family Services President and CEO Rufus Williams at the open house, which included a roundtable discussion on police-community relations.) Steward moved from a longtime career at the College of DuPage to BBF Family Services in North Lawndale three years ago. After starting in development for the organization, she is currently the Envisioning Justice North Lawndale Hub Director.  I recently sat down with Steward on a quiet Saturday morning at BBF to discuss her vision for subsequent Envisioning Justice programming. I work for UCAN, another social service agency in North Lawndale, so I was particularly curious about her previous work on the agency’s development side, and …

IMAGE: A black and white photo of AnnMarie Brown in conversation with three teaching artists from Circles & Ciphers. One of the artists points towards the others from out of the right frame of while AnnMarie and the two other artists look in their direction.

Restorative Lifestyle: A Conversation with AnnMarie Brown of Circles & Ciphers

Between August 22nd and 24th, several practitioners came together for Restorative Justice Summit 2018 to hold generative conversations about the meanings and shared narrative they locate within their work. One year into North Lawndale’s pilot of the Restorative Justice Community Community Court, we see these practices deployed in schools, correctional facilities, court systems, and community organizations throughout the city. All of these spaces hold their own internal relational dynamics which affect how restorative justice looks on the ground. In the Restorative Justice Community Court of North Lawndale, the practice looks like peace circles made available to non-violent defendants as an alternative to the harsh sentencing guidelines of Cook County Criminal Court. During their City Bureau Public Newsroom presentation,  Jenny Casas and Sarah Conway made clear that this is not a process designed to release the defendant from consequences or grant them full autonomy. Failing to keep the agreements made in the Community Court will mean a return to the Criminal Court. AnnMarie Brown of Circles & Ciphers prefers to view restorative justice through the lens of lifestyle and choice. This past May, Circles & Ciphers hosted a culminating event for the first session of …

Unwavering Motivation: Victoria Martinez’s Mark on Chicago

Victoria Martinez is on a mission: to catalyze and foster change by making art in the neighborhood where she grew up in, Pilsen. Over the last eight years, she has evolved her making and teaching work into a deliberate community-based practice that encourages empowerment through material exploration and collaboration. The mixed media and installation artist sees her next step as building an artistic practice that is not only creatively rigorous but also financially sustainable to continue investing in the Mexican folks of Pilsen, whose home is being whitewashed by gentrification. Now, after grappling with the question of graduate school for years, she departs for Yale School of Art this fall to pursue an MFA in painting, embarking on a new chapter in her practice and temporarily leaving Chicago. “My work in Pilsen and in Chicago isn’t done,” she asserts as we share a meal at Currency Exchange Cafe, right next door to her studio at the Arts Incubator. As a working-class artist grounded in community, her decision to attend graduate school comes at a time …

Dissenting through Craft with Aram Han Sifuentes

Born out of frustration at the country’s current political state and feeling unsafe to protest, fiber and social practice artist Aram Han Sifuentes began making fabric protest banners the day after the 2016 Presidential election. During her residency at the Chicago Cultural Center, she presented the Protest Banner Lending Library where the public could make, donate and check-out protest banners at no charge. The ongoing library invites people to support movements of dissent through making something with care: dynamic banners on novelty fabric that proudly wear slogans such as “Multi Culti Cuties Unite,” “Too Cute To Be Binary,” and “The Future is Female and Brown.” Hundreds of banners later, it is still a practical resource for organizers and activists who need the assistance and encouragement. Since then, the library has been presented and activated at Alphawood Gallery in Chicago and is currently at the Pulitzer Foundation in St. Louis, where Sifuentes is an artist in residence this summer. The Protest Banner Lending Library was an act of catharsis and solidarity for the artist, bringing people together …

Performing Revolutionary: Art, Action, Activism by Nicole Garneau

Artist and activist Nicole Garneau’s new book Performing Revolutionary: Art, Action, Activism takes you on an intimate journey through her project UPRISING, a series of performances that took place once a month for five years. Defining her UPRISINGs as “public demonstration of revolutionary practices,” these performances, protests, celebrations envelop around efforts of connection, community, and care in a way that is reflected in the writings in this book (Garneau, 2). The artist lovingly holds your hand while she walks you through how this project began, and then onwards into each of the 60 performances taking place in eight states and other international locations, beginning in 2008. Each of the sixty performances explored within this book is two-fold: one part being ‘IN ACTION’ which describes the performance and event; the other being ‘Revolutionary Practice,’ which offers a prompt, an exercise the reader can do themselves, putting the action into practice. Garneau describes this book as, “The result of many years of exploration into how performance can be used to create public demonstrations of the possibilities for a more loving, …

Collected Histories: “Open 24 Hours” by Edra Soto

Edra Soto has transformed the Commons at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) with her work Open 24 Hours into a beautiful place filled with remnants of histories that gives birth to transcultural discourse and new meaning. Fittingly, Soto’s culturally charged work is the inaugural project for this new “civically engaged space” at the MCA. As I walk in to the Commons to attend Edra Soto’s artist talk, there are installations of intricately designed, custom-made display structures that stand like pillars, shelf after shelf holding up empty bottles of all different shapes and sizes; the translucence of the greens and browns of the bottles providing a striking contrast to the opaque white of the shells that adorn their surfaces. Edra Soto informs the audience that she collected these bottles, and continues to do so, in her neighborhood of East Garfield Park. She picks them up, washes them, removes their labels—she cares about these bottles as objects. She sees something in them. They are not pieces of trash to be discarded and forgotten, they are pieces …

Shared Work: Ryn Osbourne on Empathy, Relationship Building, and Transparency

Ryn Osbourne is a visual artist and arts administrator originally from Ohio and based in the Midwest.  Osbourne has worked in direct service as an educator and mentor, facilitating arts-based activities with youth of all ages. As co-manager of MINT Collective (2015–present) in Columbus, OH, Osbourne has helped carry out multiple community programs including “Junk Dada Super Sunday” for the Wexner Center for the Arts.  She has worked with VISIBLE:INVISIBLE, a program which hosts studio art workshops for homeless youth in Columbus, OH, and AXIOM: A Judgment Call for the Arts helping to organize artists to participate in art making workshops with inmates of Merion Correctional Institution in Ohio and providing project direction aligned with ethical community practice. After relocating to Chicago, IL in 2016 to pursue her M.A. in Arts Administration and Policy from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Osbourne has worked with the Hyde Park Art Center as an education and programming intern assisting with community focus group research, has provided administrative support for Gary Lights Open Works, a social practice project based in …