All posts tagged: community

Featured Image: Andre Keichian, 'Salt in the I' (detail), 2019. View of negatives from Keichian's family photo album adhered to a glass window as part of the exhibition installation at table. Photo by Kim Becker. Image courtesy of Kyle Bellucci Johanson.

New Political Imaginaries at the table: Interview with Kyle Bellucci Johanson

In a 2017 interview for the Brooklyn Rail, poet, critic, and theorist, Fred Moten said: “Everything always needs new language. We constantly have to renew the language of any mode of inquiry. Some of the tools for that are in art history and some are in other places. If you’ve really got to do something, and it’s really important, you don’t give a shit where the tools come from. You get the tools wherever you can find them and then you deal with the consequences that attend those tools as you work with them. You don’t reject tools out of hand just because they come from this or that place. To me, that means you aren’t serious about getting the job done—you’re serious about something else, maybe about some bullshit notion of purity, but you’re not serious about getting the job done.”  This statement reverberates through table, a temporary project space organized by Kyle Bellucci Johanson, who has turned to building coalition through initiating critical discussions of contemporary art in the dining room of his …

Feasts, Fasts, and Excavations: Interview with Devyn Mañibo

I recently had the opportunity to be fed by Devyn Mañibo at a performative four-course meal she hosted at Extase Gallery in collaboration with Marie Ségolène and Jake Collings called MARROW, a communion in excavation. I’ve wanted to talk to Devyn about the way she utilizes food and cooking for connection and dissection since coming across documentation of a feast she hosted as part of her ongoing project F(E)AST at Ground Level Platform/SAIC earlier this year. The photos featured vibrant green banana leaves as a table spread holding up brilliant citruses, mounds of white rice, and cross-hatched mangoes with guests using their hands to engage with the servings. The environment she built and served made people pay attention to their food, to examine each material in relation to others on the table by way of color, texture, flavor, or purpose. The first thing I noticed in the setting for MARROW was a flower in the centerpiece of the table. It  looked like a sunflower that swallowed an artichoke, sharp and demanding with many layers in …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

Nurturing Community: Interview with George Wilson of BBF Family Services

Since last year, BBF Family Services has functioned as the community focal point, or hub, for the Envisioning Justice initiative in the neighborhood of North Lawndale.  In the fall, I spoke separately to Rufus Williams, BBF President and CEO, and Dominique Steward, Envisioning Justice Hub Director for North Lawndale, about programming at BBF and its role in the initiative, which seeks to bring awareness to the impact of incarceration in communities across Chicago. Williams and Steward both recommended I talk to George Wilson, a Youth Mentor at BBF, for a rich, ground-level perspective on the direct services BBF provides to North Lawndale youth. Wilson and I met at BBF after I finished an early shift at UCAN, another social service agency in North Lawndale. In the social service industry, Wilson and I are peers, each direct-service providers to youth. But UCAN is a residential treatment center (among other things), where youth from all over (and, in fact, some from North Lawndale) are assigned to live by the state. Wilson, on the other hand, works with youth from the community, in the …

Locating Your Practice in ‘Todros Geller: Strange Worlds’ with Curator Susan Weininger

Todros Geller, (1889-1949), was a Jewish-American artist born in Ukraine, immigrating to Canada and later Chicago in 1906, where he studied at the Art Institute of Chicago. He became a prominent artist during his time, having a hand in many organizations in Chicago and working with such artists as Charles White. The exhibition Todros Geller: Strange Worlds showcases the diverse work—in style, subject matter, and medium—that Geller created throughout his lifetime; and is hosted at the Spertus Institute of Jewish Learning, an organization that began as the College of Jewish studies, where Todros Geller taught for many years. Many of the objects from the exhibition come from the institute’s extensive collection of Jewish art and historic, ritual objects, a collection that Todros Geller began. Co-curator of the exhibition Dr. Susan Weininger explains Geller’s interest in Jewish art, “One of the things that [Geller] pursued his whole life was the idea of a Jewish art museum. He knew that there was a history of Jewish art [and] he traveled to study that history.” Dr. Weininger and …

Little Village Through A Looking Glass: An Interview with Media Instructor Mario Contreras

As part of Chicago’s Envisioning Justice project to address community concerns around criminal justice through arts education, Open Center for the Arts in Little Village worked with teaching artists to bring specialized courses focused on immigration, incarceration, and political organizing to their students. Filmmaker and media instructor Jesús Mario Contreras was one such educator, teaching a series of filmmaking classes to youth and young adults from the neighborhood. He shared with me about his particular teaching philosophies of art as cultural communication, youth allyship, and the importance of self-reflection. Anjali Misra: How did you become involved with Open Center? Mario Contreras: Pepe Vargas from The Chicago Latino Film Festival recommended a friend of mine for  the job of instructor. Arlen Parsa, director of The Way to Andina, thought I’d enjoy the opportunity. AM: Can you describe your work with Open Center? What was day-to-day teaching like, and what were some highlights (best personal moments with students, staff, community members, etc.)? MC: I was one of many instructors that Open Center students worked with over the …

Shifting the Art Education Paradigm: A Conversation with Arnie Aprill of Envisioning Justice

When I asked Chicago-based arts and learning curriculum expert Arnie Aprill to sum up the Envisioning Justice initiative, he told me it was  “about respecting the knowledge of [Chicago] communities, not paying service to project funders.” Since the launch of this city-wide initiative, Aprill has been asking the hard questions, like “how do communities build their own capacity for healthy living? How are these communities being disenfranchised?” The catalyst of disenfranchisement that the Envisioning Justice program sites are addressing is the criminal justice system. Aprill works closely with hub directors (community leaders co-facilitating place-based Envisioning Justice projects) to offer activities that empower youth and families with the knowledge, tools, and resources to define their own futures outside of the seemingly ever-present gaze of the criminal justice system in Chicago. From Aprill’s assessment, many West and South Side neighborhood leaders face an uphill battle to not have their communities’ health be defined by where they fall in mass incarceration statistics. Aprill has always seen his role as helping already established neighborhood programs build capacity to address …

Community Art for Art’s Sake: A Conversation with Open Center for the Arts in Little Village

At Open Center for the Arts in Little Village, the focus is not on enacting social justice buzzwords like “youth diversion,” “community intervention,” or “artivism.” Instead, Open Center staff are working hard to build capacity for positive change in their neighborhood by modeling progressive values for the young people they mentor and serve. Earlier this year, I spoke with four of Open Center’s instructors and art practitioners and one student intern to learn about how each of them is envisioning justice in Little Village as well as how they view their own roles as artists within the ecosystem of direct service youth development and community organizing. Folks at the table included Executive Director J. Omar Magana, Envisioning Justice Hub Director Gabriela Juarez, Theater Instructor Luis Crespo, Film & Video Instructor Essau Menendez, and Theater Assistant & Student Jose Blanco This interview has been edited for clarity and length. Anjali Misra: Luis – as Theater Director, what do you oversee? Luis Crespo: I oversee the youth program and that’s working with the young people to use …

Books & Breakfast at The Breathing Room

The #LetUsBreathe Collective is an alliance of artists and activists who come together, organizing through a creative lens to imagine a world without prisons and police. The Collective operates the Breathing Room, a Black-led liberation headquarters for arts, organizing, and healing on Chicago’s South Side. Like music, food crosses all boundaries. It connects the physical and the soul, and it honors our past and our present. It is essential for survival. At The Breathing Room with the #LetUsBreathe Collective, Cherisse Jackson and I have begun a collaboration in bringing a Books & Breakfast program to the space twice a week, on Mondays and Wednesdays from 7 to 9 a.m.. The program honors the Black Radical Tradition and The Black Panther Party’s Free Breakfast for School Children Program, which began in 1969 after The National School Lunch Program provided reduced-price, but not free, lunches for poor children, and the National School Breakfast Program was limited to few schools. In order to address the need in the community, the Panthers initiated the Free Breakfast Program at St. …

Featured image: Maggie Robinson and Allison Sokolowski performing in “I Am” at the Chicago Danztheatre Auditorium, as part of the Body Passages culminating event. Maggie balances with one foot, knee, and hand on the floor, as Allison stands on Maggie’s lower back. The performers hold each other’s left hands and look at each other. Both are barefoot and wear white t-shirts and jeans. Behind them is a well-lit stage, with a string of colorful paper suspended across it. Still from a video by John Borowski.

Body Passages: Culminating Collaborations

This is the fourth and final article in a series about Body Passages, a partnership between Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble and The Chicago Poetry Center (the first, second, and third pieces can be found here). These articles provide brief looks into a 10-month, interdisciplinary creative process between Body Passages poets and dancers, documenting and reflecting on aspects of that process as it happens. Launched in 2017, Body Passages is an artist residency and performance series curated and produced by Sara Maslanka (Artistic Director of Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble) and Natasha Mijares (Reading Series Curator of The Chicago Poetry Center; Natasha also writes for Sixty). Trigger warning: The performance “Blood Memory,” discussed below, contains references to sexual assault, including in childhood. During a culminating event featuring groups’ final performances, the Body Passages artists offered the audience sugar cereal, sparkling cider, and glowsticks; invited us to dance with them and record ourselves reading their poetic curations; and asked us to travel back in time with them to New Year’s Eve 1998. Especially appropriate given Body Passages’ collaborative focus and …

‘The Artist as a Catalyst of Social Change?’ Part 3: Leah Gipson

As many contemporary artists, arts organizations, and other cultural laborers continue a decades-long trajectory of re-orienting their practices more deliberately towards and within the social world, forms and approaches have morphed through a collective re-imagining of the production, dissemination, and sociopolitical potential of art. These modes have sought to broaden access and participation in the arts, transform relationships between people, forge practices rooted just as much in ethics as in aesthetics, and other similar gestures toward aligning art with notions of social justice and reform. And yet amidst this grappling, a number of unresolved riddles remain regarding art’s place in daily life: What and who is art’s “community,” and what do we mean by “community”? What is art’s relationship to democracy? Can increased access to the arts also advance civic participation more broadly? What is the role of the artist in society? Can art and artists be catalysts for social change — and should they? Such issues and questions reverberate through the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum’s current exhibition Participatory Arts: Crafting Social Change, which explores …

Darien R. Wendell, Forging Black Queer Sanctuaries by Any Means

Darien R. Wendell (they/them, ey/em, d) is a transdisciplinary artist, curator, educator, and organizer who uses art as a vehicle to interrogate and excavate Black queer histories, experiences, and moments. They harness their inquiry in pursuit of creating art, spaces and worlds for Black trans and gender non-conforming folks who seek refuge, community and connection. Their work expands over different media and expressions, including performance, sculpture, illustration, and zines. They are also part of several Chicago-based artists and organizing collectives–one of which is A Tribe Called Cunt, a “squad” co-created with Bonita Africana (Shanna Collins) that highlights the many contributions of Black trans and gender non-conforming rappers and cultural producers to hip-hop culture.    It was an art teacher in high school who encouraged Darien to think critically about art as a tool and not just aesthetics. They had a culture jamming assignment that required them to look at an advertisement, research the company that produced it to understand the company’s practices, and then create a counterculture piece of art about it. The main point of …

‘The Artist as a Catalyst of Social Change?’ Part 2: Regin Igloria and North Branch Projects

As many contemporary artists, arts organizations, and other cultural laborers continue a decades-long trajectory of reorienting their practices more deliberately towards and within the social world, forms and approaches have morphed through a collective re-imagining of the production, dissemination, and sociopolitical potential of art. These modes have sought to broaden access and participation in the arts, transform relationships between people, forge practices rooted in ethics as much as in aesthetics, and other similar gestures toward aligning art with notions of social justice and reform. Yet amidst this grappling, a number of unresolved riddles remain regarding art’s place in daily life: who is art’s “community,” and what exactly do we mean by “community”? What is art’s relationship to democracy? Can increased access to the arts also advance civic participation more broadly? What is the role of the artist in society? Can art and artists be catalysts for social change — and should they? Such issues and questions reverberate through the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum’s current exhibition Participatory Arts: Crafting Social Change, which explores the influence that …

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 …

Featured image: Udita Upadhyaya at the book release for “nevernotmusic,” at TriTriangle. The artist leans over a table, looking down as she writes in gold pen inside a copy of her book. Next to her is another copy, open to its centerfold, where gold thread is visible. The artist wears a light-colored, textured sweater. Photo by Caleb Neubauer.

Beyond the Page: Udita Upadhyaya’s “nevernotmusic” (the book)

“Beyond the Page” digs into the process and practice of writers and artists who work at the intersection of literary arts and other fields. This interview is the third of three with interdisciplinary artist Udita Upadhyaya about “nevernotmusic” — a solo exhibition of scores activated by curated, collaborative performances — and her process of developing these scores into a book (the first and second interviews are online). After the book’s release in September, I met with Udita to reflect on the book, the process of creating it (and personalizing each copy), and the connection between music and grief in her work. Get a copy of the limited edition book by contacting Udita. Find @uditau on Twitter and Instagram. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.   Marya Spont-Lemus: How are you feeling about Saturday’s book release event? Udita Upadhyaya: I’m still processing, but I am feeling good. It was great to see the book in its final form. The book is really beautiful! I have not spent enough time with it yet, but …

Abolitionist Sarah-Ji Uses Photography To Reimagine Community Liberation

Sarah-Ji (she/her) is a movement photographer and abolitionist who documents freedom struggles in Chicago. She is also an active member of For the People Artists Collective, a squad of Black and artists of color who also organize and create work that “uplifts and projects struggle, resistance, liberation, and survival within and for marginalized communities and movements.” For nearly a decade she has created a visual archive of liberation struggles for Black, Brown, Indigenous, queer, trans, and intersex lives. She documents and sheds light on the everyday people of Chicago who show up and actively resist systemic, hyper-local and social oppression. Thus, her camera becomes a tool of liberation and a pathway toward envisioning a world without police and prisons, where struggle does not take precedence over love, justice, and community. Her photography illustrates the power of sustaining strong relationships as organizing artists while committing to the heavy lift of resistance and social activism. This interview was shortened for length and clarity.  Ireashia: Tell me a little about how you came to photography and what drew …

On Incarceration, Quilting and Building Community at Homan Square

August of this year, Nichols Tower Artist-in-Residence Rachel Wallis held her first quilting circle where she invited participants to sew thoughts, plans, and dreams that female inmates at the Cook County prison have for their children. In different stages of incarceration, some of these women are awaiting a trial, some are being processed. These women are mothers, grandmothers, sisters, and daughters who were separated from their family as a result of imprisonment. On her website, artist Rachel Wallis describes herself as “an activist who uses art in organizing work, and an artist who engages in issues of racial and social justice.” As an extension of her art practice, Wallis approached the Cook County women’s facility with a series of quilting workshops to engage the inmates; the first of which took place in summer of 2018. Scheduled on a Saturday afternoon, Wallis began the three-hour workshop by inviting participants to sit in a circle. Before she entrusted the participants with the sewing, Wallis, along with facilitators Jamilah Bowden, a professional counselor at H’Art of Hope, and Audrey …

Body Passages: Lani T. Montreal and Maxine Patronik on Developing “Blood Memory”

This is the third article in an ongoing series about Body Passages, a partnership between Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble and The Chicago Poetry Center (the first and second are online). This series gives brief looks into a 10-month, interdisciplinary creative process between Body Passages poets and dancers, documenting and reflecting on aspects of that process as it happens. In September, I spoke with writer Lani T. Montreal and dancer/choreographer Maxine Patronik about their collaborative process; their resulting piece, “Blood Memory,” about trauma and bodily memory; and their thoughts about artists’ responsibility when presenting work with sensitive themes. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Lani and Maxine’s final creation – along with those by other Body Passages groups – were performed at a culminating event at the Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble Auditorium on October 12 and 13. Marya Spont-Lemus: It was so cool to get to observe you today at work on “Blood Memory,” your piece-in-progress for Body Passages. So thank you! Before we get into discussing that collaborative piece and your process, I’d love …

Image: Bri Beck leans into the frame from the right side, looking down at a tan mixed media garment piece on a white pedestal. Other works can be seen in the background. Photo by Ryan Edmund.

Locating Your Practice in ‘Chicago Disability Activism, Arts, and Design,’ with Bri Beck

“I could have never expected this, it’s so exciting. It [makes me] feel like my story has been told for a very long time, and I don’t always have to be the one telling my story,” asserts Bri Beck while discussing the work in Chicago Disability Activism, Arts, and Design: 1970s to Today at Gallery 400. The exhibition is a multi-generational sampling of the disability-centered artwork that has been coming out of Chicago over the last fifty-plus years. Artist and art therapy graduate student Bri Beck and I visit the exhibition to discuss her experience as a part of this rich history. As we make our way through the gallery, Beck points out artists she’s worked with, portraits of people she recognizes, and professors she’s been mentored by. “I love being a part of the Chicago disability community,” says Beck. A close-knit and interconnected community, she explains, “there aren’t very many of us!” The seemingly small circle of artists and activists doing disability work in Chicago is precisely what has made the city an epicenter for advocacy and …

Restoring Community in North Lawndale: Interview with Rufus Williams of BBF Family Services

I met Rufus Williams at “Powerful Platforms: A Community’s Call to Action,” a BBF Family Services Open House event back in June, designed to bring community awareness to Envisioning Justice and BBF’s role as one of seven Envisioning Justice hubs throughout the city. Established in 1961 as a boxing gym for boys in the neighborhood, BBF (the initials reflect its former name, Better Boys Foundation) now provides resources for children and adults in North Lawndale, an area of Chicago historically vulnerable to political and social disenfranchisement. Current BBF programs address the broad developmental, educational, and employment needs of members of the community, including those reentering society from jail or prison. Williams is President and Chief Executive Officer of BBF Family Services. BBF is housed in a modern two-story building at 15th and Pulaski, luminous on the interior, with floor-to-ceiling windows on both floors that look onto an uncovered center courtyard. At the Open House there were arts and crafts for youngsters, and a community resource room where various local groups had set up tables, providing information …

Intimate Justice: Leah Ball

“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 Leah Ball about erotica for the self, the role of the artist, and the documentation of pleasure in her Humboldt Park studio.  This interview has been edited for length and clarity. S. Nicole Lane: Can you discuss the basic groundwork for combining ceramics with sexual, sensual images and text? Leah Ball: At a young age I was super impressed that my dad could draw a realistic looking human from memory. I have no idea why, but as a kid I thought that was magic—so I practiced and practiced to do the same. I think the reality is that I have been trying to reclaim my body since as far back as I can remember. I have been sexualized my whole life. These moments are some of my most vivid memories, so I always revisit themes of reclamation in my work. I think that’s …

Emerging Community Challenges around Incarceration with Free Write and Restorative Justice Community Court

Surveillance, criminalization, and budget cuts to public services impact communities, environmental contexts, policies, and institutions. These issues affect social needs and challenge community-oriented responses to political issues. All these factors collide in our carceral systems at both personal and society-wide levels, and contribute to recidivism. Communities continue to question and to seek solutions and alternatives beyond state-driven mechanisms. Recently in Chicago, many of the direct actions and conversations at the community, local, and state levels have been related to systemic injustices. Immigration enforcement, budget cuts to mental health services, and surging violence’s purported connection to the morals of black and brown communities, funding allocated to policing within the county have been a few of the topics at the forefront of debate. Located in Cook County, Free Write Arts & Literacy and the Restorative Justice Community Court (RJCC) offer two community-oriented approaches at the intersections of re-entry and incarceration. Both organizations attempt to mitigate the effects of detainment for incarceration-affected youth and adults through creative programming and peace circles which center the harm done from non-violent crimes on …

Tellin' Tales Theatre's Young Adult Writers program 2017, courtesy of Chicago Public Library. Image description: eleven people reading from black folders. Three people stand at the back while the rest are seated. Several of the participants are using wheelchairs.

Advocacy and Accession: Chicago Public Library’s Disability Awareness Month

There’s something about a library that makes me feel at home. The seemingly endless options of well-worn books are a welcome sight for anyone who grew up spending hot summers cross-legged on a public library floor. During July, that innate sense of welcoming is highlighted further with the Chicago Public Library (CPL)’s Disability Awareness Month. With a fierce desire to make the disability community feel more at home in the city’s library spaces, the CPL’s Diversability Advocacy Committee is in the midst of its second annual celebration of people with disabilities—both as guests as well as creatives. Evelyn Keolian, co-chair of the Diversability Advocacy Committee and a Children’s Librarian at the Edgewater Branch, took the time to tell me a little more about the library’s Disability Awareness Month. Courtney Graham: Last year was the Chicago Public Library’s first observance of Disability Awareness Month, how did this initiative begin? Evelyn Keolian: At CPL, we have different heritage and cultural committees that take on the responsibility to facilitate programming to celebrate their respective heritage months.  Some examples …

Body Passages: Exploring Visual Art with Poets Lorraine Harrell and David Nekimken

This is the second article in an ongoing series about Body Passages, a partnership between Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble and The Chicago Poetry Center (the first is here). This series gives brief looks into a 10-month, interdisciplinary creative process between Body Passages poets and dancers, documenting and reflecting on aspects of that process as it happens. On an afternoon in early May, I showed up to watch an “open rehearsal” at the Chicago Cultural Center’s dance studio only to find myself a participant. This opportunity became even more exciting when the people I was there to see—Lorraine Harrell and David Nekimken, two delightful and effervescent poets who were in residence through Body Passages—invited me to join them as they sought inspiration and inputs in the galleries. We spent an hour together exploring the Cultural Center’s first-floor exhibitions, as the pair shared their observations and perspectives about visual artworks, made connections to their own lives and practices, and generated ideas for a joint creative project—an interdisciplinary, in progress work, prompted by their participation in Body Passages. A …

Featured image: This is a photograph of a group of people in a dance studio, sitting in a circle of chairs. Some people have their backs to the camera, and other people are shown straight-on or in profile. The two chairs nearest the camera are unoccupied, creating a window to the speaker, a man holding a microphone. Photograph by Hannah Siegfried.

Body Passages: Poets and Dancers Discuss Collaborative Processes In Progress

This is the first article in an ongoing series about Body Passages, a partnership between Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble and The Chicago Poetry Center. This series gives brief looks into a 10-month, interdisciplinary creative process between Body Passages poets and dancers, documenting and reflecting on aspects of that process as it happens. Launched in 2017, Body Passages is the brainchild of co-founders Sara Maslanka (Artistic Director of Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble) and Natasha Mijares (Reading Series Curator of The Chicago Poetry Center; Natasha also writes for Sixty). This innovative, interdisciplinary partnership brings together artists of various forms—poets and dancers, ostensibly, but many with practices extending beyond those bounds—over the course of 10 months to create original, collaborative work engaging language and movement. The 2018 cohort is comprised of 14 broadly diverse artists at different points in their artistic growth, who are together interrogating this year’s theme—“Activation”—and developing new work in response. Following December auditions, their process formally began in January when selected poets and dancers were assigned into groups and will officially conclude in October with final …

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, …