All posts filed under: Essay

Image: Kristoffer McAfee stands outside the School of the Art Institute Columbus building, where the painting students spend most of their time. He says his experience at SAIC “gave me confidence in my work and direction.” Photo by Kristie Kahns.

A Path Turned Inside Out: A Conversation with Kristoffer McAfee

Through his use of bold color palettes, meticulous details, and iconic symbols, artist Kristoffer McAfee displays technical rigor while provoking questions about the allure of consumerism that permeates our lives. Kristoffer is a California-born, Chicago-raised artist and a graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, whose practice focuses on confronting political and social issues through intricate paintings and large-scale three-dimensional objects. His artistic voice and the intent of his work has surfaced in a myriad of ways: through life experiences, like growing up with the disparities and segregation within the southside of Chicago; by travelling the world, spending many years in Paris; by channeling the influence of other artists, like Andy Warhol or Jeff Koons; or through rigorous training, which he received at SAIC. But perhaps a less considered factor, and one that has impacted the development of Kristoffer’s path, is timing. He was skeptical of higher education and traditional art school, and only made the decision to enroll at SAIC once in his late twenties – a choice he acknowledges was …

AMFM and the Lifespan of Chicago Artist-Run Spaces

Chicago’s artist-run spaces are key players in the creative ecosystem. They stretch down all avenues in the city and beyond into the sprawling suburbs. Whether they are found in old storefronts, auto shops, backyards, or basements, some hold their space for decades while others reconstruct or retire.  Succumbing to the rise of rent and the heavy financial responsibilities that come with running an alternative venue can play a large role in the changing of spaces or changing of hands. Artist-run spaces go through fluctuations, especially those who persist for a few years. Some turn into non-profit gallery spaces, while others host a few pop-ups or begin satellite locations. Others simply shutter.  Deciding to close an artist-run space shouldn’t equate to failure. The conditions for closure—or change—are endless. The lifespans of DIY spaces don’t eradicate the work that was done. And often, the spaces simply exist in a new form. For Ciera McKissick of AMFM, that’s exactly what happened.  For over a decade, Ciera’s project—whose original form was a web magazine—has developed and transformed into various …

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 …

Featured Image: Work by February James. We Laugh Loud So The Spirits Can Hear, 2020. Installation view. Five highly expressive, framed watercolor portraits hang in the gallery. Image Courtesy of the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery.

The Artist as Changemaker: A Conversation with February James

I’m not even going to belabor the conversation about how we are all living through some of the most challenging times that we may ever see in our existence. We are simply trying to survive a global pandemic amongst civil unrest in the wake of police brutality and efforts to dismantle white supremacy, all during an extremely high stakes election year.  As an artist, I know I’m not the only one who has received these types of emails over the past few months,  “We hope you understand that your exhibition has been postponed due to circumstances surrounding the global pandemic.”  “The gallery has implemented a virtual platform to promote your work in lieu of an in-person exhibition opening.” “Your health and well-being is extremely important to us, which is why we have decided to cancel your upcoming event.”  The pandemic has changed every aspect of our daily lives. Schools, jobs, social gatherings, shopping, exhibitions, festivals, events, and countless others can be added to the never-ending list of things that no longer operate as they once …

Louise LeBourgeois: Life on the Great Lake

I first met Louise LeBourgeois on the rocks. I’ve called myself a “rock person” for a few years, ever since I first landed in Hyde Park and my skin was warmed by the large formations that line the shore of Lake Michigan on the Southside. I’ve formed friendships with fellow rock people throughout the years, but it was only recently that I decided to finally meet up with the Point swimmers, a group of open water swimmers who meet in the early morning (some even swim year-round). I’m more of an afternoon swimmer myself, but there’s something exhilarating about seeing folks kicking in the waves of Lake Michigan while the sun rises—the sun rearing its pretty head and reflecting on their pink and yellow swim caps. After grabbing coffee with the swimmers, we went our separate ways. But before I departed, Louise LeBourgeois handed me her card. LeBourgeois’ large panel paintings confront you with their vastness; a neverending-type-of-feeling. You want to sit inside of them. Do you dare to touch it? Do you find yourself …

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, …

Blackness, Images & the Space Between

A conversation with Milwaukee based fine artist Nick Drain and Genesis Gallery owner, artist, and organizer Randy Brown. Nick recently held his first solo exhibition “In Plain Sight” at Genesis and our collective discussion quickly found its way circling around and through larger topics like race, identity, viewership and the politics of the Milwaukee art scene. Over the course of the last few months, I let our conversation sink in and settle where it needed to in order for me to get down to the guts of what the discussion meant for all of us. I have a distinct memory of the moment I stood in front of Picasso’s “Guernica” at Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid, Spain. It was the summer before college, I was only 18 years old and I didn’t think of myself as an artist then. I think back to that trip reflecting on the enormity and impact of viewing that painting in the flesh, and I realized it was a moment that hit me too early in …

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 …

A Projection Into ‘Paths Between Two Steps’ by Soo Shin

The lymph nodes in my neck are swollen. Poisonous balloons expanding in my throat. I am guilty of my breath, my touch, how they could infect others. I bike to see my partner at Rosehill Cemetery, where we had planned to meet, and I tell him about the wretched mass I sense inside me, surrounding me. So we decide to stay safe, six feet apart, where we will stay for at least a week. We visit his grandparents’ graves, stones placed upon them. He is saying something to me as I draw in and out, in and out wet salty breaths, six feet away. I have never missed a touch so close to me so deeply—I can’t stand it. I go, six feet, then 20, then miles, until I am separated from the one I love. And I am thinking now, as many of us are, what it means to love and to live from a distance.  I am wondering the same thing as I again click through the virtual version of “Paths Between Two …

Hardware & Soft Bodies: What I’m Learning From Agnes Denes

I have been programming computers as part of my art practice for a number of years. This pursuit feels increasingly queer the longer I do it: at one time I felt I was adding my queerness to a straight-set of tools, but these days it’s more like pulling forth something that was already there. Lately, I have enjoyed imagining that tech has always been a queer project. The irony here is that most technologists are straight cismen, so they pursue this queer project unwittingly. Tech practitioners try to reproduce themselves as computers: gender-flexible bodies with many modes of union (pins, ports, invisible blue teeth). They succeed and fail to recreate themselves in their own repressed queer image. All electronics achieve a kind of fleshliness via scatology, burning fossil fuel and producing noxious waste, which is cleverly closeted away in power plants. At the same time, most computers remain too smooth and hard to feel alive. Practitioners remain oblivious that their faltering aim is the sexless production of excreting bodies—instead, they think they are working toward …

Recipes for a post-colonial kitchen: maize / Recetas para una cocina poscolonial: el maíz

I remember the days before smartphones when my parents would load me and my brothers up into our white, blue velvet interior, 1985 Oldsmobile Toronado to make the 2-day trip down south to visit our grandparents. It was always a hot summer, a 24 hour drive to the border, 12 hours to Durango, and a few extra hours here and there so my dad could sleep. This was usually somewhere just outside of Tulsa, and after getting through Border Patrol in Nuevo Laredo. I knew the path in my heart. No matter how far away we were, I felt the magnetic pull that snapped us from our house in Aurora, Illinois to the fig trees growing in the yard behind my grandmother’s kitchen in Durango. Mexico was my summer camp. As the in-car map reader, it was my job to make sure we took I-55 South through St. Louis so we could drive over that spectacular bridge that crossed the Mississippi River. My father, a former truck driver who is very familiar with this route, …

Image: Installation view of "Dark Matter: Celestial Objects as Messengers of Love in These Troubled Times" by Folayemi Wilson. Catwalk with rotating NASA videos of the sun and moon. Photo by Michael Sullivan.

Space is a Place: Folayemi Wilson at the Hyde Park Art Center

There’s this thing that happens sometimes when I close my eyes and focus on nothing. It’s not like the after-image that you often get when looking at an object for a long time, but something else entirely. I see daubs of light, tiny flecks of indiscernible colors that move and dance in the darkness. And frequently, there is an actual place, a room that has no apparent walls, but feels like I’m somewhere else than where I really am–an astral projection of a space for safety and reflection. This place, I believe, was made manifest when I entered the main gallery this summer at the Hyde Park Art Center (HPAC) to view Folayemi Wilson’s latest work Dark Matter: Celestial Objects as Messengers of Love in These Troubled Times. I met Fo late last year during my stint in the Teaching Artist’s studio of HPAC. I had worked there since September 2016, and was encouraged to apply to be a resident. A couple months later, I was sharing the space with another teaching artist. Now, mind …

Image: Ida Cuttler, wearing a red blazer over pink pajamas, sits with her hands on her knees center. On the ground around her, are red and blue balloons and red-white-and-blue beachballs. The beachballs have stars on the blue stripes. Photo courtesy of Brave Lux, Inc.

A Story – “Comfortable Shoes” at The Neo-Futurist Theater

Here: a story. When I was younger, as a chronic fidgeter, holes and gaps would creep into my clothes, always looking like a moth had found a cozy meal. Because of this, I became familiar with the fraying yarn, a piece of a piece of clothing that could not be separated, nor could it be its own item. I tugged at these threads, always wondering whether or not I could find the scarf’s spine or its guts or its nerve endings. We do, after all, understand where my skeleton is and where your skeleton is and if we had been inside the meat, then surely science must have been inside the sweater and understood those blueprints. Though, I never got too far: I stopped, knowing that I would have wound up shirtless midway through the day. Here: another. Ida Cuttler contributed to the infamous (and not at all that famous) Hot Blog Dogs, one of my favorite mid-2010s artifacts. I found the website inspiring; as a misanthropic, anxious bibliophile who wanted to be fun and …

You Are Here: Mark Joshua Epstein

Allison Lacher and Jeff Robinson work collaboratively as artist-curators and organizers in Springfield, Illinois. For over seven years, they have developed contemporary arts programming at the University of Illinois Springfield Visual Arts Gallery, DEMO Project, and the Terrain Biennial at Enos Park. Lacher and Robinson reached out to seven creative and cultural purveyors whom they have worked with over their tenure in the capital city to reflect on their experience there — that is to say, “here.” The resulting texts together form “You are Here,” a new venture from the collaborative duo in partnership with Sixty Regional and made possible with support from Illinois Humanities. As is typical of their curatorial approach, Lacher and Robinson have extended freedom and latitude to each contributor, resulting in texts that take a variety of forms and offer wide-ranging glimpses into what it is like to work here in the flyover region of the United States, in the perceived rural Midwest, in Central Illinois, and, at the heart, here in Springfield. by Mark Joshua Epstein I usually live on …

You Are Here: Nick Wylie / Elmer Ellsworth

Allison Lacher and Jeff Robinson work collaboratively as artist-curators and organizers in Springfield, Illinois. For over seven years, they have developed contemporary arts programming at the University of Illinois Springfield Visual Arts Gallery, DEMO Project, and the Terrain Biennial at Enos Park. Lacher and Robinson reached out to seven creative and cultural purveyors whom they have worked with over their tenure in the capital city to reflect on their experience there — that is to say, “here.” The resulting texts together form “You are Here,” a new venture from the collaborative duo in partnership with Sixty Regional and made possible with support from Illinois Humanities. As is typical of their curatorial approach, Lacher and Robinson have extended freedom and latitude to each contributor, resulting in texts that take a variety of forms and offer wide-ranging glimpses into what it is like to work here in the flyover region of the United States, in the perceived rural Midwest, in Central Illinois, and, at the heart, here in Springfield. Summer Love in Springfield by Nick Wylie / …

You Are Here: Stephanie Graham

Allison Lacher and Jeff Robinson work collaboratively as artist-curators and organizers in Springfield, Illinois. For over seven years, they have developed contemporary arts programming at the University of Illinois Springfield Visual Arts Gallery, DEMO Project, and the Terrain Biennial at Enos Park. Lacher and Robinson reached out to seven creative and cultural purveyors whom they have worked with over their tenure in the capital city to reflect on their experience there — that is to say, “here.” The resulting texts together form “You are Here,” a new venture from the collaborative duo in partnership with Sixty Regional and made possible with support from Illinois Humanities. As is typical of their curatorial approach, Lacher and Robinson have extended freedom and latitude to each contributor, resulting in texts that take a variety of forms and offer wide-ranging glimpses into what it is like to work here in the flyover region of the United States, in the perceived rural Midwest, in Central Illinois, and, at the heart, here in Springfield. by Stephanie Graham Hello. My name is Stephanie …

You Are Here: Cass Davis

Allison Lacher and Jeff Robinson work collaboratively as artist-curators and organizers in Springfield, Illinois. For over seven years, they have developed contemporary arts programming at the University of Illinois Springfield Visual Arts Gallery, DEMO Project, and the Terrain Biennial at Enos Park. Lacher and Robinson reached out to seven creative and cultural purveyors whom they have worked with over their tenure in the capital city to reflect on their experience there — that is to say, “here.” The resulting texts together form “You are Here,” a new venture from the collaborative duo in partnership with Sixty Regional and made possible with support from Illinois Humanities. As is typical of their curatorial approach, Lacher and Robinson have extended freedom and latitude to each contributor, resulting in texts that take a variety of forms and offer wide-ranging glimpses into what it is like to work here in the flyover region of the United States, in the perceived rural Midwest, in Central Illinois, and, at the heart, here in Springfield. An Argument for Excavation by Cass Davis In …

You Are Here: Lyndon Barrois Jr.

Allison Lacher and Jeff Robinson work collaboratively as artist-curators and organizers in Springfield, Illinois. For over seven years, they have developed contemporary arts programming at the University of Illinois Springfield Visual Arts Gallery, DEMO Project, and the Terrain Biennial at Enos Park. Lacher and Robinson reached out to seven creative and cultural purveyors whom they have worked with over their tenure in the capital city to reflect on their experience there — that is to say, “here.” The resulting texts together form “You are Here,” a new venture from the collaborative duo in partnership with Sixty Regional and made possible with support from Illinois Humanities. As is typical of their curatorial approach, Lacher and Robinson have extended freedom and latitude to each contributor, resulting in texts that take a variety of forms and offer wide-ranging glimpses into what it is like to work here in the flyover region of the United States, in the perceived rural Midwest, in Central Illinois, and, at the heart, here in Springfield. In Accord by Lyndon Barrois Jr. For me, …

Image: Astrid Kaemmerling shown walking Enos Park being led by participant of the Enos Park Walking Laboratory (2017), Location: 5th Street and Union Street, Enos Park, IL. Photo by Danielle Wyckoff.

You Are Here: Astrid Kaemmerling

Allison Lacher and Jeff Robinson work collaboratively as artist-curators and organizers in Springfield, Illinois. For over seven years, they have developed contemporary arts programming at the University of Illinois Springfield Visual Arts Gallery, DEMO Project, and the Terrain Biennial at Enos Park. Lacher and Robinson reached out to seven creative and cultural purveyors whom they have worked with over their tenure in the capital city to reflect on their experience there — that is to say, “here.” The resulting texts together form “You are Here,” a new venture from the collaborative duo in partnership with Sixty Regional and made possible with support from Illinois Humanities. As is typical of their curatorial approach, Lacher and Robinson have extended freedom and latitude to each contributor, resulting in texts that take a variety of forms and offer wide-ranging glimpses into what it is like to work here in the flyover region of the United States, in the perceived rural Midwest, in Central Illinois, and, at the heart, here in Springfield. Walking Enos Park: Community and Urban (Re)development through …

Featured image: The cast of “KISS.” From left to right; director Monty Cole sits on the arm of an olive green couch, with his hands on his thighs facing us. He wears glasses and a blue checked shirt. Cassidy Slaughter-Mason stands in front of the couch arms at her side. She looks up and to the right. She wears a leopard print tank top and blue denim jeans. Her shadow grazes Salar Ardebili who sits on the couch staring out to the left. He wears a blue shirt and black pants. Arti Ishak sits behind him wearing a pink and brown floral dress, looking out to the left. There is a hanging lamp behind them, a door to their left, and a kitchen sink behind Ishak. Image courtesy of Austin D. Oie.

Review – “KISS” at Haven Theatre

[Spoilers for “KISS” below] “The cards spoke to a suspicion that many whose work is play can never be free of: that you can only flaunt your triviality for so long before punishment is due. A date has been selected, and on that day there will be a great culling…” – Helen Oyeyemi, “is your blood as red as this?” ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The map is not the territory. This is where we must start because we must acknowledge that a play is not the story and a text is not an experience and that characters are not people and that words are not meaning. The map offers an idea of terrain, of forests and rivers, and creeks. From a map, you can discern a route and direction and make plans. When I was younger, I carried maps where my family went, charting courses across town through subways and over bridges. At the zoo, I tracked a path towards the birds of prey, making sure to pass the reptile house and always to avoid the picnic tables …

Beyond the Page: Miss Spoken’s Jasmine Davila and Rosamund Lannin

“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 Jasmine Davila and Rosamund Lannin, co-producers and co-hosts of Miss Spoken — a live storytelling show and podcast featuring work by the female-identified, exploring a new theme each month. I spoke with Jasmine and Rosamund in late April about the show’s origins (and amazing themes), their own influences, and why creating spaces for women’s experiences is so important. Check out Miss Spoken at the Gallery Cabaret, the last Wednesday of every month at 7pm. Find @MissSpokenChicago on Facebook and @MissSpokenChi on Twitter. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Marya Spont-Lemus: To begin, what is Miss Spoken and how did it come to be? Rosamund Lannin: Miss Spoken is lady live lit. It’s personal essays by the female-identified, which means cis-women, trans-women — anyone who identifies as a woman is eligible to participate. We have also had gender non-conforming people participate as well. “Lady live …

Image: Kahlil Robert Irving, MOBILE STRUCTURE; RELIEF & Memorial: (Monument Prototype for a Mass); 2019. Sculptural Installation. Photo by Shabez Jamal.

From Punk Clubs to Panaderías: Counterpublic, An Embedded Triennial

In an era hypersaturated with recurring exhibitions – from Shanghai to Sharjah, Havana to Venice – a new St. Louis triennial urges artgoers to forgo the touristic water taxis for their own two feet. Organized by The Luminary, a St. Louis-based nonprofit platform for art and activism, Counterpublic reinvigorates global precedents with a model that approaches the city on the scale of a neighborhood. Its inaugural iteration takes place in the 12-block radius of Cherokee Street, a neighborhood of family-operated businesses and art spaces that serves as the Latinx center of St. Louis. Any of the 30+ site-responsive installations and performances greet equal parts neighbors carrying grocery bags and cognoscenti clutching the newspapers that serve as maps to make the pilgrimage. Artworks are ingrained in punk clubs and panaderías, indicated subtly by small yellow signs. The exhibition evolves at various levels of sunlight and sobriety – it features a John Riepenhoff-created beer at Earthworks brewery –as Counterpublic’s hours are set by the shops themselves. On the street, none of the artwork is particularly protected; this …

We’re Here: The hub of drag and queer culture in Central Illinois

When one thinks of epicenters of drag culture, places like San Francisco, New York, L.A., and other large diverse areas are what comes to mind. When thinking of Illinois, the mind automatically goes to Chicago and the thriving drag community there. You just have to look at pride events in these areas and the vast amount and variety of entertainers, queens, performers, and queer culture, to see why. No one thinks of looking a little south of the windy city at Peoria, Bloomington, Springfield, Decatur, and Champaign, for example. For anyone who comes from a small town, myself being from small town West Virginia, it often seems like these large cultural hubs are the only place where drag performances and pride events are possible. This, however, could not be further from the truth. There is a rich culture of drag spread about and hidden amongst the cornfields; a beautiful and diverse group of entertainers and artists maintaining a thriving culture of drag outside of the metropolitan areas. I have been performing in drag for about two …

Image: Installation shot of Gregg Bordowitz: I Wanna Be Well, 2019. © Gregg Bordowitz. Image courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Analog Love: Synching Up In the Time of Queerness

“Queer life and love in the 1980s was cruelly characterized by the knowledge that time was running out.” —Joshua Chambers Letson, After the Party: A Manifesto for Queer of Color Life What if queerness is not out of time? What if it is in fact deeply entangled in time, intimate with its intricate loops, its swells, its passing lulls? Consider the clock to be a geography of relation. To declare queer not out of time but in fact enmeshed with time is to dance towards becoming synchronous against the odds. Attuning across long distances, linking despite (or perhaps because of) grief. To fall in time is to fall into a love unrequited: time cannot love you back, cannot nurse your wounds, cannot even promise you company. Time is out to kill, racing against us. Even yet—we rush to its side, seeking its alliance at a lover’s deathbed or amidst the off-hours communion of the dance floor. + Lately I’ve been dancing with archives. Everything touches up with everything: I am experiencing what seems a surreal …

Framing the Body: A Critical Look at Witkin’s Photographic Legacy

“Brilliant and divisive,” those were the words Catherine Edelman, gallery owner and panel moderator, used to describe acclaimed photographer Joel-Peter Witkin. The latest exhibition at Catherine Edelman Gallery, Joel-Peter Witkin: From the Studio, features more than 25 photographs, 80 drawings, as well as sketchbooks and journals, darkroom tools and cameras, letters, and contact sheets. But it was Witkins mission, “to create photographs that show the beauty of marginalized people,” and how he executes that aim was the primary topic of discussion for the ‘Otherness & Beauty’ panel hosted by the gallery on June 1. The panel included painter, writer and disability activist Riva Lehrer, art therapist Deb DelSignore, and art historian Mark B. Pohlad. Witkin, an American artist based in Albuquerque, photographs his subjects in carefully crafted settings and utilizes manual darkroom techniques to produce surreal images. The subjects are often “intersex, post and pre-op individuals, and people born with physical abnormalities.” Lehrer makes artwork depicting similar marginalized people, with one very important difference—she is a portrait artist. Lehrer works collaboratively with her subjects to …

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 …