All posts filed under: Community

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Beyond the Page: Quenna Lené Barrett

“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 Quenna Lené Barrett — actor, educator, writer, director, activist, scholar, and lifelong Chicagoan. We spoke in late November about her ongoing project, “Re-Writing the Declaration,” and its recent production; how her many forms of work inform each other; and using applied theater as a tool for civic participation and Black liberation.  Follow Barrett @quennalene (Twitter, Instagram) and @quenna.lene (Facebook). This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Marya Spont-Lemus: After getting to experience aspects of Re-Writing the Declaration as a project over the last few years, it was extra exciting to see the production of it earlier this month. Now that a few weeks have passed, how are you feeling about it? Quenna Lené Barrett: Still feeling really good! I was directing two shows at once — Re-Writing the Declaration and another one, in this virtual format — and then had other projects come up. …

Featured Image: CeaseDays is wearing a black beanie, a black windbreaker with a black hoodie underneath, and black jeans. He has his hands tucked in his jean pockets. He is standing in front of a graffiti mural with a black background and purple and yellow letters.

The Southwest Nest: An Interview with CeaseDays

Brighton Park, Back of the Yards, and McKinley Park are neighborhoods on the Southwest Side of Chicago that are bundled together so often that they are given a similar reputation and narrative by the media. It isn’t always a good one. Today these neighborhoods still face violence, poverty, and more recently, gentrification. I would like to challenge the idea that violence is the only thing these neighborhoods have to offer by shining a light on the creative minds that enrich them. In this series, “The Southwest Nest,” I hope to celebrate and recognize these artists and share with you their perspectives of the neighborhoods they either work in or call home. This interview covers the span of a year. For Part 1 of this interview, which took place in October of 2019, I met up with artist CeaseDays (Cesar Diaz) at Simone’s, one of the many places where he performs and DJs. CeaseDays may sound like a familiar name if you went to UIC. As a student he ran the radio show, “Thumpin’ Thursdays.” You …

Imagen de portada: CeaseDays lleva un gorro negro, una chaqueta negra con una sudadera con capucha negra debajo y jeans negros. Tiene las manos metidas en los bolsillos del jean. Está frente de un mural de graffiti con el color del base negro y letras de color morado y amarillo.

El Nido Suroeste: Una entrevista con CeaseDays

Brighton Park, Back of the Yards (o el Barrio de las Empacadoras), y McKinley Park son vecindarios en el lado Suroeste de Chicago que están agrupados con tanta frecuencia que la prensa les ha dado una reputación y narrativa similar. No siempre es buena. Hoy estos vecindarios todavía enfrentan la violencia, la pobreza, y más recientemente, la gentrificación. Con llamar la atención a las mentes creativas que enriquecen a estas comunidades, me gustaría desafiar la idea que la violencia es la única cosa que tienen que ofrecer. En esta serie, “El Nido Suroeste,” espero celebrar y reconocer a estos artistas y compartir con ustedes sus perspectivos sobre los barrios donde trabajan o viven. Esta entrevista cubre el lapso de un año. La parte 1 de esta entrevista se completó en octubre de 2019, cuando me reuní con el artista CeaseDays (Cesar Diaz) en Simone’s, uno de los muchos lugares donde trabaja y toca como DJ. CeaseDays, puede ser un nombre familiar si fuiste a UIC, cuando era estudiante, dirigió el programa de radio, “Thumpin’ Thursday.” …

Image: A group of poets in various poses under and on a structure in Humboldt Park.

Touchless Entry: A Socially Distant Art Collective

One of the first buzzwords to emerge from the pandemic was “mutual aid.” Quarantine’s stakes of survival reminded many of us of our fundamental interdependence, and the lack of coordinated leadership called for us to have each other’s backs out of necessity, compelling us to take care of each other in ways that our government refused. Of course, mutual aid is not something new that emerged out of a vacuum. DIY artist communities are one model for collectivity, for an alternative economy of care and co-creation. I couldn’t bear the thought of DIY becoming extinct in the midst of the global pandemic. Pre-pandemic, apartment galleries, basement punk shows, poetry readings, raves, afterparties, and other forms of underground events were vital forms of creative community-making on the margins of the mainstream. These are lifeworlds, and they sustain us. Unfortunately, most of these subterranean activities cannot translate safely into a COVID world. And every Twitch dance party I’ve been to pales next to IRL clubbing.  Months into missing all of this, my roommate and I banded with …

Image: More Than a Melody by Kiki DuPont

November Art Picks

If you’ve followed us for a while, you know that our Art Picks offer a wide scope of events that are relevant to our audiences because we and the artists, cultural workers, curators, spaces, and projects we support live full lives that know no boundaries. We maintain expansive practices and work toward justice for BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and disability communities in Chicago and the Midwest.  If this is your first time coming across this list, welcome. We’re glad you’re here and we hope this list sparks discovery, curiosity, and a demand for justice if you weren’t openly demanding that already. Created in collaboration with The Visualist and adapted for social-distancing due to COVID-19, this list offers online exhibitions, streaming events, a list of online collections from Black and LGBTQIA+ archives, and other ways to spend time in the virtual space. Also, in support of our friends, our communities, ourselves, and abolition/liberation efforts, we’re prioritizing events that uplift and fight for Black Lives and celebrate Black Queer Lives because the fight for Black Lives is the fight for Black artists, our …

Questions in Time: Looking Back and Ahead, Together

In our current moment, Chicago’s artists and creators find themselves exhaustingly entrenched within the gig economy, where artist-run spaces and projects commonly exist in liminal zones of financial and programmatic instability. Neoliberalism’s acceleration has only illuminated how the endeavor to make and create within the art economy is demarcated by racism, classism, and technological isolation, i.e. the art world’s role in gentrification, the exclusionary cost of many MFA programs, the growing scarcity of funding, and the fleetingness of social capital within the attention economy. Uncertainty and anxiety permeate our current moment; we live in a constant state of reckoning. How can one meaningfully create and work while maintaining a constructive and reparative critique of one’s own complicity within systems of oppression? In a maze of disenfranchisement, how can the art world be a roadmap for advocacy? Is such a change even possible? I do not know the answers to these questions. However, I do believe that there is something––a hint, a clue, a discovery––to be uncovered within an examination of time and how it has …

Artist Residencies, Collaboration, and Alternative Models of Education

In 2018, artists Julia Holter and Olivia Block came together to write and compose a new piece titled Whenever the Breeze, creating immersive sound by combining voice, instruments, bells, and recording of wind and water. The making of this piece culminated in an album recording and a live performance at the May Chapel in Rosehill Cemetery. This dynamic, collaborative piece was created during Experimental Sound Studio’s Outer Ear Residency. Artist residencies offer a place for artistic exploration, a space where artists can work and think collectively, and potentially collaborate with like-minded individuals as well. Although this environment sounds similar to a classroom, residencies often subvert the power dynamics found in traditional academic settings. Without a type of hierarchical knowledge structure, residencies often form an alternative learning space. bell hooks describes this kind of learning community in Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom, saying, “Since the vast majority of students learn through conservative, traditional educational practices and concern themselves only with the presence of the professor, any radical pedagogy must insist that everyone’s presence is …

The Southwest Nest: An Interview with Gloria “Gloe” Talamantes

Brighton Park, Back of the Yards, and McKinley Park are neighborhoods on the Southwest Side of Chicago that are bundled together so often that they are given a similar reputation and narrative by the media. It isn’t always a good one. Today these neighborhoods still face violence, poverty, and more recently, gentrification. I would like to challenge the idea that violence is the only thing these neighborhoods have to offer by shining a light on the creative minds that enrich them. In this series, “The Southwest Nest,” I hope to celebrate and recognize these artists and share with you their perspectives of the neighborhoods they either work in or call home. Gloria Talamantes, known by her artist name, “Gloe,” takes on many roles, from being an editor for The GATE newspaper to practicing her art in the streets of Chicago as a graffiti artist and muralist. It is very typical to have seen a mural of hers in Chicago. Her street art can be found in many areas in Chicago like Little Village, Back of …

El Nido Suroeste: Una entrevista con Gloria “Gloe” Talamantes

Brighton Park, Back of the Yards (o el Barrio de las Empacadoras), y McKinley Park son vecindarios en el lado Suroeste de Chicago que están agrupados con tanta frecuencia que la prensa les ha dado una reputación y narrativa similar. No siempre es buena. Hoy estos vecindarios todavía enfrentan la violencia, la pobreza, y más recientemente, la gentrificación. Con llamar la atención a las mentes creativas que enriquecen a estas comunidades, me gustaría desafiar la idea que la violencia es la única cosa que tienen que ofrecer. En esta serie, “El Nido Suroeste,” espero celebrar y reconocer a estos artistas y compartir con ustedes sus perspectivos sobre los barrios donde trabajan o viven. Gloria Talamantes, conocida por su nombre artístico, “Gloe,” asume varias posiciones, desde ser editora del periódico The GATE hasta practicar su arte en las calles de Chicago como artista de graffiti y muralista. Es muy típico haber visto uno de sus murales en Chicago. Su arte callejero se puede encontrar en varias áreas de Chicago como La Villita, el Barrio de las …

A black and white photograph titled Stop White People From Killing Us - St. Louis, MO, c. 1966-1967 by Darryl Cowherd

October Art Picks

If you’ve followed us for a while, you know that our Art Picks offer a wide scope of events that are relevant to our audiences because we and the artists, cultural workers, curators, spaces, and projects we support live full lives that know no boundaries. We maintain expansive practices and work toward justice for BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and disability communities in Chicago and the Midwest.  If this is your first time coming across this list, welcome. We’re glad you’re here and we hope this list sparks discovery, curiosity, and a demand for justice if you weren’t openly demanding that already. Created in collaboration with The Visualist and adapted for social-distancing due to COVID-19, this list offers online exhibitions, streaming events, a list of online collections from Black and LGBTQIA+ archives, and other ways to spend time in the virtual space. Also, in support of our friends, our communities, ourselves, and abolition/liberation efforts, we’re prioritizing events that uplift and fight for Black Lives and celebrate Black Queer Lives because the fight for Black Lives is the fight for Black artists, our …

Image: “Chicago Spring,” curated by Lauren Iacoponi featuring various artists. Six small windows have works of several artists hanging. In the top left window, Sarah Genematas, colored pencil drawing and David Stonehouse, mixed media drawing. Bottom left window exhibits MyLinh Mac, canvas painting, Ata Berkol, hand marbled fabric, Marcy Thomas-Burns and Amy Shelton collaboration, sculpture by Thomas-Burns, and print by Shelton, The top middle window exhibits a fine art photo print on cotton paper by Darryll Schiff. Bottom middle window exhibits an exhibition poster by Gordon Hall, a polyhedron wooden sculpture by John Heinze, and a plastic primary colored house by Shistine Peterson. The top right window has work by Tabor Shiles, which is a screenprint on silk, and a screenprint on paper by Trashformal (Charlotte Gasparetti Ribar and Spiros Loukopoulos). The bottom right window exhibits botany illustrations by S. Curtis Glazenwood Essex and Millicent Kennedy’s colored pencil and ink drawing. Photo by Amy Shelton.

August (Virtual) Art Picks

If you’ve followed us for a while, you know that our Art Picks offer a wide scope of events that are relevant to our audiences because we and the artists, cultural workers, curators, spaces, and projects we support live full lives that know no boundaries. We maintain expansive practices and work toward justice for BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and disability communities in Chicago and the Midwest.  If this is your first time coming across this list, welcome. We’re glad you’re here and we hope this list sparks discovery, curiosity, and a demand for justice if you weren’t openly demanding that already. Created in collaboration with The Visualist and adapted for social-distancing due to COVID-19, this list offers online exhibitions, streaming events, a list of online collections from Black and LGBTQIA+ archives, and other ways to spend time in the virtual space. Also, in support of our friends, our communities, ourselves, and abolition/liberation efforts, we’re prioritizing events that uplift and fight for Black Lives and celebrate Black Queer Lives because the fight for Black Lives is the fight for Black artists, our …

Featured Image: The marquee of The Art Theater in Champaign, Illinois reads “For Sale or Rent.” The Art Theater’s sign is red and retro. The brick building is located on a downtown street, with residential apartments above the theater. Photo by Jessica Hammie.

Support for the Arts Supports Us All

Before I moved to Central Illinois, I hadn’t spent much time thinking about the ways arts and culture programs affect a community. Living in a mid-sized town/small city/micro-urban area for a little over a decade has changed the way I think about community and what it means to have access to those types of programs. Dynamic arts and culture programming signals that residents are engaged and active, that this is a place people should want to live. It signals that a municipality values its citizens, and is interested in helping create a community where a rich quality of life is revered. An engaged arts community celebrates and challenges its members and residents; it’s more than a collection of people making stuff or putting on performances. These programs indicate there is an infrastructure that supports community connection and potential for conversations about difficult subjects that can advocate for change. Active and critically engaged arts support systems within communities are vital to the growth and progress of small towns like Champaign-Urbana. In a diverse community like C-U, …

Beyond the Page: Tanuja Devi Jagernauth

“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 Tanuja Devi Jagernauth — Indo-Caribbean playwright, dramaturg, organizer — about how her practices in theater, prison abolition, healing justice, and transformative justice interconnect; creating spaces for BIPOC theater-makers; doing mutual aid during and beyond the pandemic; and how she challenges systems of oppression and struggles for collective liberation through her work. Tanuja and I spoke in May. We recognize that in the weeks since then there has been a broadened nation-wide uprising against policing and other white supremacist systems — an uprising sparked by the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, and innumerable others, as well as by other forms of anti-Black violence. We recognize that these racist acts are part of a long, systematized lineage. And we recognize that there have always been organizers and artists visioning and building against, beyond, and outside of that. We have decided to publish this …

Purple Window Gallery: A Quarantine Initiative Brings Exhibitions to Our Windows

Full disclosure: S. Nicole Lane is a participating artist and board member of Purple Window Gallery. Lauren Iacoponi is an artist, curator, and writer who is the co-founder and director of the gallery.  Due to COVID-19, her plans of opening up the store-front gallery space have been postponed. As a result, she has launched an at-home initiative for artists all over the world to participate in. This interview took place via email in early April.  S. Nicole Lane: Can you tell us a little bit about the opening of Purple Window Gallery and when you decided to open up your own space? Lauren Iacoponi: I’ve spent the past several months initiating a project space called Purple Window (coming soon to Avondale, Chicago). I’m the director and co-founder of this upcoming space.  Purple Window is artist-led and community-supported. As an artist cooperative, Purple Window is jointly owned and democratically controlled by its members, so I don’t personally view Purple Window as “my own space.” But I did initiate the co-op and invite each of its members …

On Hoarding Love Notes, and Other Gifts of Community and Anxiety

Last month I learned that I hoard love notes. Shortly after the shelter-in-place mandate I had a particularly tough day, which concluded with a bout of uncharacteristically convulsive crying and me deciding I could do nothing else that evening but clean. As I organized papers on my desk, I unearthed a handwritten letter my friend Udita gave me at her wedding earlier this year. Its contents were precise but not precious, making me feel known not only for my “positive” qualities but also my flawed and idiosyncratic humanness. Though technically a thank-you card, I don’t know what else to call it but a love note. How lucky for it to turn up right then! I texted Udita to say her note was just what I needed that night. She responded that my message was just what she needed, too. These days “love notes” have been appearing to me in diverse forms, by various paths. Another week, I texted my friend Myrna to check in, writing the words sending an e-hug. When she sent back an …

Image: A color illustration of a woman with VR glasses looking at a colorful screen. Illustration by Teshika Silva.

April (Virtual) Art Picks

Due to the unprecedented, precarious state we are all in due to COVID-19, this month’s Art Picks reads a bit differently. As the nation practices social-distancing, we can no longer attend the events normally listed here. Exhibitions, performances, lectures–you name it–are being postponed or cancelled. As a result, artists, musicians, and performers are doing what they always do–they become even more resourceful, miraculously organizing virtual events and alternative ways to engage with their work. As the ways in which we experience the arts have recently changed, so must this list of Art Picks. Below, you will find three categories: arts events that have been postponed or cancelled, virtual streaming events, and online resources from regional arts organizations. Art Picks is a monthly event calendar 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. The featured image was created by one of Sixty’s talented illustrators, …

A Scene of Her Own: The Inimitable Vaginal Davis

Her blond hair perfectly flipped, a smile breaking across her warm and open face, Vaginal Davis takes the mic, satin blue nighty shimmying. Amidst a stage of fierce femmes of all shapes and sizes rocking back and forth in slumber party attire, Davis holds the center of our attention. Performing tonight as Graciela Grejalva—lead singer of Cholita!—she sings, she shouts, sweating, spitting rapid-fire lyrics, a pink swatch of fabric clutched in one hand. Her other hand gesticulates wildly, mirrored by the lingerie-clad woman to her left who cajoles in pantomime, pointing at, sometimes flipping off the audience, implicating and drawing them in. Black and brown women, including Alice Bag of Sad Girl and The Bags, play backup to our Blatino (half Black, half Mexican), intersexed, queer drag superstar, churning out a low-fi frenzied garage punk beat. “CHINGA TU, CHINGA TU, CHINGA TU MADRE!” they collectively sing in urgent, joyful unison. Go fuck yourself. Literally, go fuck your mother. Vaginal Davis, who named herself after Black radical Angela Davis with a queer, humorous twist, is not …

In Case of Emergency: Artist Resources For You, For Us

All of us at Sixty can’t help but to think about the strain that is being put on our arts community in Chicago and across the Midwest. Exhibitions, performances, and fundraisers are being canceled or postponed indefinitely, contract opportunities are halting, schools and cultural institutions are being shut down, side-gigs at and income from bars, restaurants, and retail stores are dwindling. We are also seeing incredible examples of community organizing in and beyond the arts that are providing quick support locally, regionally, and nationally. And if you’re like us, you’re looking for ways to support those efforts or even start your own initiatives to help others who are in need. Knowledge is power, so in an effort to share information, we’ve compiled a growing list of suggestions, resources, and things you can do, models you can adapt, and small actions you can take now to do your part. And though we are sharing these resources with the best of intentions, we encourage you to also do your own research into the organizations, initiatives, and efforts …

Featured image: Sahar Mustafah sits outdoors, smiling and looking off-camera. She wears a black winter coat, light grey scarf, and large hoop earrings. A bush with tan leaves fills most of the space behind her, with greenery and parts of a building behind that. Photo by Mark Blanchard.

Beyond the Page: Sahar Mustafah

“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 fiction writer and high school English teacher Sahar Mustafah about her debut novel, “The Beauty of Your Face.” We spoke in January about her process of drafting, crafting, and publishing the book; how her writing and teaching inform each other; and key experiences — and women — that have shaped her as an author. “The Beauty of Your Face” (W.W. Norton, 2020) is available for pre-order. Check out the book launch event and reading at the American Writers Museum on April 7. Find Mustafah on Twitter @saharmustafah. This interview has been edited for length and clarity, and to limit plot-related spoilers to the contents of the prologue and the book jacket. Marya Spont-Lemus: I’ve admired your work since we met through StoryStudio’s “Novel in a Year” program in 2015. I loved your short story collection, Code of the West (Willow Books, 2017), and was completely absorbed …

No Nation

La primera vez que visité {\}() {\}∆‡|(){\} fue en 2016, apenas un año después de mi llegada a Chicago. Uno de los profesores en el departamento de performance de la facultad iba a presentar un trabajo en {\}() {\}∆‡|(){\} e invitó a  la clase a conocer el espacio y el talento de artistas locales emergentes. Recuerdo el primer impacto; una mezcla de fascinación, asombro, calidez y confort, un sentido absoluto de pertenencia e identificación con el arte, la comunidad y la filosofía del espacio. Procesos experimentales y performances sin terminar, performances con materiales orgánicos, insólitos, arriesgados y dispares como fuego o fluidos corporales, performances desinhibidas, transgresoras, interactivas y viscerales. The first time I visited {\}() {\}∆‡|(){\} was in 2016, barely a year after my arrival in Chicago. One of my teachers from the performance department was presenting a new work at {\}() {\}∆‡|(){\} and invited our class to discover the space and the talent of emerging local artists. I remember the first impact; a mixture of fascination, wonder, warmth and comfort, an absolute sense of …

December 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. Sat – Sun, Nov 30 – Dec 1Connect South Shore Arts FestivalJeffrey Mall: 7131 S. Jeffery StreetFree Sun, Dec 1, 10am-12:30pm Drag Queen Story Time and Brunch: Holiday Edition Museum Of Contemporary Art Chicago: 220 E Chicago Ave Free Sun, Dec 1, 12-2pm Sanctuary Sunday | Teshika Silver: Tarot & Intention 6018NORTH: 6018 N Kenmore Ave Free – $40 Sun, Dec 1, 1-3pm Noname’s Book Club Chicago Meet-Up Stony Island Arts Bank: 6760 S Stony Island Ave Free Sun, Dec 1, 5-8pm For the Time Being ACRE Projects: 1345 W 19th St Free Mon, Dec 2, 4:30-7:30pm The Nap Ministry Smart Museum of Art: 5550 S Greenwood Ave Free Mon, Dec 2, 9:30-11:30pm Susan Sontag: Duet for Cannibals Doc Films …