All posts filed under: Community

Lion Cages and Lilac Fields: From Chicago Stages to Basements, Art, Work, and Other Pandemic Songs

Featured Image: Jyreika Guest (left) performing in a music video for the livestreamed theater production grelley. Guest stands on a crate and gestures toward the video camera, surrounded by lighting equipment and a basic set design. At right are crew members (L-R) Eon Mora, Kevin Veselka, and Glamhag. In the background another actor checks their outfit in a mirror. Filmed in Chicago, May 2021. Photo by Sarah Elizabeth Larson. This is the first in a series of articles made in collaboration with the Chicago Arts Census to explore the living, labor, and material realities of art workers in the city of Chicago. To learn more about the Census, how to get involved, or how to take the survey, please visit: https://chicagoartscensus.com/ To get to the Internal Call Center you have to enter the museum’s loading dock, head down endless hallways of windowed offices—the home of Curatorial, Education, the Director, the President (a.k.a. the people who neither know nor want to know you exist)—hop down two or three flights of stairs, and weave through the maze …

Featured image: Both sides of the image are filled with layers of graphite powder with that euphoric and turbulent energy being represented by the gestural marks in between those graphite margins. The left and right sides of the image are dark grey and the middle is red. Image by Damiane Nickles.

A Topography of Dreams: Collective Care

A trilogy of unfurlings and web castings of the makings towards a radical love practice. Isra Rene invites you to share your own ponderings, wonders, and unravelings of your own love practice, knowing that our collective experiences build a stronger net that supports our interconnected worldbuilding. This story has no beginning or end, it just appears to be happening now. I’d imagine it was always happening somewhere just within reach, on the margins, tethering at my attention. Maybe lying somewhere in the wake, or in the break; a glitch in my ecosystem with the most gentle effect. A story that disrupts and blurs that has pervaded in our current state of violence. This story is a dream of mine made true. A dream where we are loved, cared for, uplifted, and challenged. A dream coming into fruition through the labor of tender love and care created through kinships, loveships, and every affective connection. A dream made possible by rest and leisure. A dream not deferred. A dream guaranteed to be in flux but crafted intentionally …

Black neighbors spending time outside on a sunny day on Chicago's West Side in 1974. On the left, two children stand together, one holding a bike. In the shadow of the home that falls outside of the frame, another child sits on the porch. To the right, two young people stand, one with their hands in the hair of the other, braiding. Cars line the street in front of them. Photo from John H. White's series DOCUMERICA: The Environmental Protection Agency's Program to Photographically Document Subjects of Environmental Concern, 1972 - 1977. Source: The National Archives and Records Administration.

Diamond in the Back: Excavating Chicago’s Black Cultural and Material Heritage with The Blackivists

Introducing a two-year community archiving collaboration between Sixty and The Blackivists, a collective of trained Black archivists who prioritize Black cultural heritage preservation and memory work–a project supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Learning and Making: Reparations for the Earth

Learning and Making invites teachers, students, artists, and people who are all three at once to explore the radical possibilities that exist at the intersection of making and learning. Learning is the act of deepening human experience and increasing human agency. Many artists work as educators and consider this work as part of their practice. Arts programs in and out of schools foster intergenerational communities that not only generate critical contemporary art but act as laboratories for radical experiments in power, care, and collaboration.  The Reparations for the Earth Curriculum, created by the Young Cultural Stewards team at the Park District, offers strategies for sowing seeds of creativity and collective power that transcend discipline. Over Zoom, I spoke with the two program stewards, Irina Zadov and Najee Zaid-Searcy, and Teaching Artist, Juliet Montelongo to better understand the foundations of their collective practice. Our conversation touched on returning to art as an experience of personal healing, putting reparations into practice, learning from nature, and the nuances of flocking.   This interview has been edited for clarity and …

Featured image: A photograph of the Struma river, which cuts through the middle of the image (and also through the middle of Sandanski, Bulgaria), flanked by levees on either side. The water level is pretty low, so there is vegetation growing along the levees. On the left side of the river is a street and apartment complexes. On the right there is a street beyond which the edges of a school yard are visible. There is a mountain range visible in the distance. Photo by the author.

Existing as a Pharmakon: claiming the liminal space of language and location as a birthright

I have been thinking, lately, about what it means to want a home. Actually, I have been thinking about what it means to want a home for the last fourteen years of my life, except only recently have I begun thinking about it obsessively. I mean, if home becomes reconfigured into something you are constantly striving for, can you ever truly have it? If your entire relationality to a safe space is summed up in yearning, how can you ever truly trust or know it? Is home a birthright? I have no actual answers to these questions. All I know is, I was born across the Atlantic, in a small country known as Bulgaria, in a southwestern city almost at the border of Greece and Macedonia, called Sandanski–the hottest city in the state. My mother’s body was my first home and when I emerged screaming and crying, I was baptized into an air that would soon expel me, too.  When a home is unable to provide for you, you find your own way out. At …

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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. …

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.” …

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 …

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, …