All posts tagged: gentrification

Brotha El spinning at the Smart Museum in front of Charles Gaines' Numbers and Trees, Central Park, Series I, Tree #9, 2016. Photo by Cecil McDonald.

Sandbox Symphony: Interview with Brother El

As fellow South Side residents and former college classmates, I was happy to sit down with Brother El, or Lional Freeman, to talk about his growing annual event Sandbox Symphony IV on Chicago’s Oakwood Beach, held on Saturday, August 10. When we were both at Loyola University Chicago, we met and collaborated to create WLUW 88.7FM’s first and only hip hop radio show in the college station’s format—“The Hip Hop Project.” We often discuss the creative process in music and writing, but for this interview we wanted to talk about how this festival came about and the influence of his late mentor, the sculptor Milton Mizenburg.  Mizenburg may be familiar if you’ve seen a few YouTube clips like this Chicago Tribune piece from 2013 or seen a couple of stories in The Chicago Reader. Others may know his work from Mizenburg’s outdoor gallery cameo in Sam Trump’s 2016 video for “Brother” with Add-2. His legacy is manifest in the Oakland Museum of Contemporary Art on Chicago’s South Side featuring epic heads that nod to an …

‘The Artist as a Catalyst of Social Change?’ Part 1: Nicole Marroquin

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 Addams …

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 …

City Visions: Urban Space, Daily Life, and the Camera

Treated with fumes and mercury vapor, the silver-polished metal plate is exposed to the light of a sunny Parisian day and reveals a latent image on its mirror-like surface: the curve of a cobblestone street leads the eye down rows of various-sized structures, toward a far-off vanishing point in the cityscape. Legible in the foreground, out in front of what appears to be a residential building, we see two figures miniaturized within the sweeping panorama. Captured by Louis Daguerre, inventor of the eponymous daguerreotype technique, this 1838 photograph, titled Boulevard du Temple, is believed to be the first picture ever created of city space and daily urban life. With its elevated perspective looking down and across this vista, Daguerre’s photo situates the viewer as an observer who is simultaneously in the city but also looking at it from some remove, as if through a window. The wide angle and sense of distance allow the viewer to consider the scene aesthetically: the contrast and quality of light, the atmosphere, the architectural forms. At the same time, …

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 …

The Aesthetics of Displacement at The Strange Fields of This City

It is rare that a show’s theme so closely mirrors the circumstances of the gallery where it is being exhibited as well as The Strange Fields of This City, curated by Greg Ruffing and features the work of  HATCH Projects Residents Alejandro Waskavich, Haerim Lee, and William Camargo,  on view until June 14th. Along with Brent Fogt’s Do Something Else, it is the last show at Chicago Artists Coalition’s space at 217 N. Carpenter before they move to their new location 2130 W. Fulton. Facing the same pressures of space and development that the show tackles, along with expanding needs, CAC is finding itself having to relocate, like many other arts organizations in Chicago. Peering into the gallery’s windows to see William Camargo’s oversized, rasquache-style advertising signs of Cultura a la Renta critiquing displacement, it is difficult to ignore the construction noises of the high rise going up across the street. Gentrification is in part a war of aesthetics. A war of the undifferentiated, the sameness of developers using profit maximizing, corner-cutting tricks to convince people …

Without, Within the World: Hume Chicago

Call them DIY, alternative, radical, or safe, Chicago’s independent art spaces create a world without money and borders within a world defined by both. They function as community hubs and communal living spaces, providing free and affordable entertainment, hosting activism workshops and food drives, and building connections among young, emerging, and marginalized artists. “Without, Within the World” is a series of interviews that asks curators and administrators about building utopia while maintaining viable spaces.      For this installment of “Without, Within the World,” we talked to executive director Fontaine Capel of Hume Chicago. Hume is a small gallery and artist studio space run out of a storefront in Humboldt Park. Through an open call process, Hume exhibits work by artists who are underrepresented on the gallery circuit, particularly women, queer, and immigrant artists. In addition to its gallery shows, Hume provides affordable studio spaces for artists and hosts regular events that contribute to its relaxed and friendly environment, such as movie nights and karaoke parties. Hume was established by Capel, Olive Panter, and Gita Jackson, who have …

Without, Within the World: The Dojo

Call them DIY, alternative, radical, or safe, Chicago’s independent art spaces create a world without money and borders within a world defined by both. They function as community hubs and communal living spaces, providing free and affordable entertainment, hosting activism workshops and food drives, and building connections among young, emerging, and marginalized artists. “Without, Within the World” is a series of interviews that asks curators and administrators about building utopia while maintaining viable spaces.      The first to be profiled is the Dojo, an underground performance venue and gallery in Pilsen. Though the Dojo has its roots in the DIY music scene, their curation constantly skirts the boundaries between genres and communities. Established in 2015 by Alex Palma, Mykele Deville, and Daniel Kyri (DK), who all lived in Pilsen at the time, the Dojo is now run by Palma and Calie Ramone, who work with a variety of outside curators and “Dojo Homies,” who put together diverse music and art shows two or three times a week. When I meet Palma at his Pilsen apartment (he …

We Just Wanna Make Crazy Weird Stuff!

  Carlos Matallana is a Bogotá-born and Chicago-based visual artist, a teacher, and a New Tech Curriculum developer. He has taught graphic design, web design, and comics in different after-school programs around Chicago since 2005. Currently he is working in his comic book Manual of Violence, which will be released by Mid 2015 http://manualofviolence.org/