If you’ve been to a poetry show in Chicago in the last couple of years, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve met Nate Olison. Nate is an arts educator, an accomplished poetry slammer, a curator, and a capoeirista. He is also a founding member of the West Side School for the Desperate artist collective, a completely independent, multi-disciplinary gallery whose mission has been to provide a safe space for ambitious young artists from all places and backgrounds.
It’s hard to believe that with such a busy schedule, you can still find Nate in the audience and on the stage of poetry shows this entire city over, from the north side’s venerable Green Mill to the south side’s beloved Gala. This, despite our city’s well-known and at times celebrated system of neighborhood segregation and marginalization, not to mention rising transit fares which can often deter struggling artists from connecting with one another on a larger scale.
Nate’s new organization, Second City to None, is working to bridge this gap using the internet as a soundboard for writers and artists from all over the city to communicate with one another. They also hope to convince the city to begin subsidizing transit cards for hard-working artists, who often contribute their time and talent to other organizations aimed at mentoring underprivileged or at-risk youth. Nate and I sat down recently to talk about the socioeconomic barriers that have previously resigned artists from certain parts of the city to the margins of the artistic community, and how art may be a way to take the last word on that isolation away from the city planners. You can hear an excerpt of our conversation below.
Jasmine Neosh is a poet, fiction-writer and activist from Chicago, IL. She is the founding curator of several successful literary institutions, including the DIY arts collective the West Side School for the Desperate and Columbia College Chicago’s Silver Tongue Reading Series. Her work has appeared previously in theNewerYork, Thought Catalog, Metazen, THE2NDHAND, and decomp, among others. More work and information can be found at www.jasmineneosh.wordpress.com.