All posts tagged: Chicago

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 …

Heaven Gallery: Relic, Ritual, and Remedy

Wading through the sea of people in Wicker Park—masks-off—wasn’t the most relaxing Sunday. Patio seating, pop music blaring, horns honking, and shops bustling all appeared to be so much louder since the last time I was in the neighborhood (prior to the pandemic). Ah, but then, there it is—Heaven.  Heaven Gallery, that is. The gallery space and its current show, “Relic, Ritual, and Remedy,” is a sanctuary amongst the bustle of the streets below.  Objects and archives are exhibited alongside textiles in the exhibition as artists explore history, ephemera, every-day objects, and texture.  This group show, curated by Lauren Iacoponi, features 11 artists, including Allen Moore, Rebecca Griffith, Judith Brotman, Naomi Elson, Nick Van Zanten, Anne Yafi, Elyse Sawka, José Santiago Pérez, Betsy Odom, Millicent Kennedy, and Ryan Burn, who work significantly with craft materials: weaving, quilting, sculpture, and every-day objects. Rebecca Griffith’s bold black VHS tape quilts blend memories from her childhood when her mother ran a video store. When Griffith was six years old, her mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis—the video store …

In the Cut: A Word from Marcus E. Davis

Marcus E. Davis, Senior Program Specialist with the Chicago Park District, writes about TRACE (Teens Reimagining Art, Community & Environment), the “In the Cut” virtual exhibition, and how they have responded to Chicago’s shelter-in-place order from their home base in the Austin neighborhood.

In the Cut with Paris Dority

Paris Dority uses her photographs to explore how things have changed in the world around her, and the shared experience and empty landscapes of quarantine. This photo essay is published as part of In The Cut, a project of TRACE (Teens Re-Imagining Art, Community, & Environment).

Perto de Lá < > Close to There: João Oliveira and Amina Ross in Conversation

Esta entrevista foi editada para garantir clareza e comprimento, e foi traduzida para nossos leitores no Brasil com as seções em português em itálico, e em inglês em tipo normal. Amina: Oi João, eu estava olhando as gravuras feitas com as peles de animais de plástico abertas e achei que temos um interesse em comum naquilo que existe alem da superficie do dia-a-dia. Como você expressou tão bem, eu vejo seu interesse em uma “força capaz de romper a superfície daquilo que se acostumou.” Existe alguma coisa que você procura encontrar no desdobramento de um corpo? No rompimento da superfície? Há ainda alguma coisa que você não encontrou? O que continua a te mover nessa exploração? This interview has been edited for clarity and length, and translated for our readers in Brazil with the Portuguese sections in italics, and the English sections unitalicized. Amina:  Hi João. I was looking at the prints made of the unfolded plastic animal skins and I think we share an interest in what exists beyond the surface of our everyday. As you put it …

Image: Installation shot of Iceberg Projects exhibition “David Wojnarowicz: Flesh of My Flesh,” June 23 – August 5, 2018. In the middle of the room, a sculpture sits on a white pedestal, encased in glass. A world map with words overlaying the image is hanging on the wall to the left, and a video screen is displaying a video on the partial brick wall directly in front of the viewer. Image courtesy of Iceberg Projects.

Tip of the Iceberg: A Conversation with Iceberg Projects

Iceberg Projects is a non- commercial art gallery in a converted coach house at the northernmost tip of Chicago. Over the past ten years, Iceberg Projects has hosted a number of historically important shows, especially of queer and other underrepresented artists, including group shows like the Art+Positive archive, Feel Me?, and Broken Flag to solo shows of David Wojnarowicz, Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Kevin Killian, Barbara DeGenevieve, and Steffani Jemison.  Inseparable from the history of Iceberg is the man behind it, whose backyard anchors Iceberg Projects. Dr. Dan Berger is an HIV specialist who helped develop the drug cocktail widely used for treatment. Recently, he released a video offering expert medical insight into how COVID 19 as it particularly affects HIV and queer communities. But his commitment to queer community extends beyond his medical practice and into his art collection, which focuses on queer and black artists.  I visited Dr. Berger in his Rogers Park home to talk about the history of the space. We also talked at length about institutional risk-taking and archiving queer legacies.  + …

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 …

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 …

The Southwest Nest / El Nido Suroeste: An Interview with Alina Estrada (English & Español)

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. Crafting has always been part of the fabric of the Southwest Side. Even as Crafts by Claudia, a neighborhood store that has been running for almost 40 years in Back of the Yards, prepares to close its doors, artist Alina Estrada is working on expanding her own crafty business, Party Mama Crafts. This Latina-owned business hosts painting and piñata-crafting workshops and classes. I had the …

Beyond the Page: Regina Martinez & Threewalls’ In-Session

“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 Regina Martinez, Threewalls’ Artist and Artistic Engagement Manager, about the In-Session program — a critical interdisciplinary salon that incorporates reading, conversation, and performance together, now entering its third season. I spoke with Martinez in late July about the ideas and values behind In-Session, the theme she chose for its coming season, sensitivities of working between artists and institutions, and Martinez’s own path to and through this work. Check out In-Session’s third season, themed “The Art of Memory.” Find Threewalls @threewalls on Twitter and @three-walls on Instagram. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Marya Spont-Lemus: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me about In-Session! I’m so glad I went to Udita Upadhyaya’s In-Session event in March, because I think this program has such a great premise and I’m excited to hear how other artists engage with it. Especially for readers who may …

The Art of DJing: Miss Twink USA

DJing is a curious art form and rarely discussed as one. It is rarely discussed at all, except by other DJs in industry publications; what is there to say that can’t be expressed more vigorously on the dancefloor? If you’re talking, you’re not dancing, and you’re probably standing in the way of people trying to dance. Is it art? It’s entertainment, it’s a trade, it’s a party. I hear André Leon Talley in the documentary Catwalk, wrinkling his nose at a parallel question about that other commercial art form: “No, no, no. Is fashion art? No! Fashion is hard work, gritty; it’s not glamorous”—the questions is an embarrassment to both art and fashion. Or DJing. To consider the question at all means that the answer is at least “sometimes.” DJing is work in the realm of aesthetic experience; it is a discipline with a touch of wonder and mystery and creative talent. DJs hear what others don’t, they surprise us with a blend, they tell a story, they improvise, they observe the energy of a …

Perto de Lá < > Close to There: Candai Calmon and Anna Martine Whitehead in Conversation

Candai Calmon is a dance artist and educator based in Salvador, Brazil. Candai has obtained an artistic education in Brazil and Uruguay, with a concentration on contemporary dance and Afro-referential, decolonial, and feminist practices. She holds a Bachelor’s in Gender and Diversity Studies and a Master’s in Dance from the Universidade Federal da Bahia. In her current practice, she creates workshops and immersive artistic experiences based on dance and improvisation with Black women in the quilombos [1] of Bahia. Anna Martine Whitehead is a multidisciplinary artist and dancer based in Chicago. Their work and research address a Black, queer relationship to time, as well as the prison industrial complex and the experience of incarceration. Anna Martine Whitehead has held residencies at 3Arts, Headlands, High Concept Labs, and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Chicago. They have also written for a number of publications and lectured at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Candai Calmon and Anna Martine Whitehead are two dance artists working through Black, queer, and female experiences. Both are part of …

The Southwest Nest / El Nido Suroeste: An Interview with Rolando Santoyo (English & Español)

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. Back of the Yards is one neighborhood on the Southwest Side of Chicago that is often mentioned by the media in connection to violence. Many people forget that this same neighborhood inspired the muckraker Upton Sinclair to write his stomach-turning 1906 novel, “The Jungle.” Now, in 2019, a brilliant artist by the name of Rolando Santoyo has made his own tribute to the book …

Beyond Representation: The Syndicate’s First Read Festival Shows up for Trans* and Non-Binary Artists

Developing a new play takes work—and not just from the playwright. In a cash-strapped world, one where the arts are under constant threat from budget cuts, it’s difficult to find solid companies investing in plays, especially new ones. And even more rare are the companies specifically focusing on plays by womxn, queer, and trans* artists. The Syndicate is this company, equipped with a mission to foster ethical processes and equity. Though originally founded in 2014 in New York, they split a producing home with Chicago and have a presence in five cities worldwide. Through grants, fellowships, and awards they’ve been able to sustain work that pays their artists and collaborators.   This summer, lead producers Ellenor Riley-Condit, Hal Cosentino, and Denise Yvette Serna are hosting First Read 2019, the 2nd annual new play festival uplifting the work of non-binary and trans* artists. After sifting through dozens of play submissions with a team of volunteer readers, they selected four plays that will receive readings in Chicago this June. Tickets to each play are pay-what-you-can and not …

In Our Bodies, Together: Disability Art Showcase and Maker-Space

Creative, connecting, and celebratory—these were the intentions laid out for people at the start of the Disability Art Showcase and Maker-Space on April 16th. The event organizer, Bri Beck, a disability artist/advocate and art therapy graduate student from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, hosted between sixty and seventy participants at Access Living, downtown Chicago’s main Center for Independent Living, for an evening of art-making and community-building.   Systemically divided groups of disabled people, veterans, scholars, art therapists, artists, activists, and more, were invited to utilize the arts “to share the varied story of disability and to bring together those that are disabled and those that work within this community to further grow and define a collective voice and community”—per Beck’s design. Image: Two people, one kneeling and one standing, work together on a colorful wall tapestry made of various fabric strips. Photo by Ryan Edmund. Guests contributed to a group tapestry, created disability pride buttons, wove fibers alongside someone new, participated in a #DisabledIAm photobooth, and engaged with artwork created by disabled artists …

Identity and Struggle: Interview with Sam Kirk

In Sam Kirk’s shared Pilsen studio at the Chicago Art Department, there are desks and a couple of small colorful portraits on the wall. They serve as a sharp contrast to the white walls accustomed to a flurry of monthly exhibits. One of the walls is a high partition that nearly hides the small but clearly busy space. The heavy table in the center of the work studio holds a work in progress that reverberates with the bright color choices and the distinct, curved lines that are a signature of Kirk’s style. However, each segment is glass cut then soldered into place by the dark lines that Kirk might normally reinforce with a smaller brush dipped in black paint, if she were working solely on canvas. Kirk’s work with glass has not only recently become part of the permanent collection at the National Museum of Mexican Art, but has become an identifiable style that she shares in public murals, exhibits, commissioned work, and even enamel pins and greeting cards. Her upcoming show “The Alchemy of …

Intimate Justice: Vesna Jovanovic

“Intimate Justice” looks at the intersection of art and sex and how these actions intertwine to serve as a form of resistance, activism, and dialogue in the Chicago community. For this installment, we talked to Vesna Jovanovic via email about medical illustrations and the act of drawing.  S. Nicole Lane: I think I saw your work a few years ago actually (I think at the Museum of Surgical Science?), and recently stumbled upon it again thanks to the internet. I’ve been interested in your attention to bodily subjects. Can you discuss how your work relates to sex and anatomy and why those topics interest you? Vesna Jovanovic: My focus on bodily subjects developed slowly over time. Many years ago, at SAIC, I took an experimental drawing class with Barbara Rossi. She asked us to create something along the lines of a Rorschach test and then draw directly on top of the inkblot. I was working a day job in an R&D laboratory at the time, so my mind was saturated with lab equipment and glassware. …

From the South Side to the South and Back: An Interview with Nichole Carter of Bright Star

Creating the right recipe of offerings for the families in your community isn’t an easy task, but that’s what Bright Star Community Outreach works to do everyday in Bronzeville. Providing everything from family service and parent education to workforce development, trauma counseling, and advocacy opportunities, Bright Star takes a holistic approach to their work and wraps their arms all the way around those who walk through their doors for support or service.  A born-and-raised Chicagoan, Bright Star’s Nichole Carter moved to Knoxville, Tennessee as a teenager, then, after acceptance into Spelman she moved to Atlanta. After graduation she spent time working in property management, specifically in mixed-income housing. Eventually, what she learned during her studies and work in the South would make its way to the South Side of Chicago through a position as the Director of Community Strategy and Development at Bright Star.   As the person at the helm of Bright Star’s community programs, she was the one who took a leadership role when Bright Star became one of seven community hubs for Envisioning Justice, a program initiated by Illinois Humanities …

Featured image: Fawzia Mirza. In this medium-close-up shot, Fawzia looks directly and confidently at the camera, smiling with pursed lips and pointing at the viewer with both hands. Fawzia wears a long-sleeved denim shirt with a blue-on-blue, camouflage-like print and the top few snaps unsnapped. The cuffs of her shirt-sleeves are folded back, and she wears several bracelets and rings made of silver or wood. Photo by Bradley Murray, cropped to fit. Courtesy of the artist.

Beyond the Page: Fawzia Mirza

“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 Fawzia Mirza — actor, writer, producer, and “artivist” — about the relationship between her writing and performance, her creations’ many forms and media platforms, the role of comedy and collaboration in her work, and how she hopes her work impacts others. Our conversation took place remotely, with Fawzia responding via audio recording to a set of emailed questions. Find Fawzia on Twitter and Instagram @thefawz. “The Red Line” premieres on Sunday, April 28, on CBS. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.   Marya Spont-Lemus: I first became aware of your work several years ago, when you emceed TEDx Windy City, at which two of my students were speaking. I thought you were such a charming, energetic, bold, incisive yet kind and generous host, and it was so lovely to officially meet you a few years ago and to discover that you’re just as smart …

Intimate Justice: Cameron Clayborn

“Intimate Justice” looks at the intersection of art and sex and how these actions intertwine to serve as a form of resistance, activism, and dialogue in the Chicago community. For this installment, we talked to Cameron Clayborn in his Bridgeport live-work studio space about popcorn ceilings, inner dialogue, and letting your freak flag fly.  This interview has been edited for length and clarity.  S. Nicole Lane: Are you from Chicago? If not, how did you end up here? Cameron Clayborn: I’m from Memphis. I was born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and then my parents moved me to Memphis. SNL: Cool. And do you live in Bridgeport? CC: Yeah. So this is a live-work space. Everyone who has a space here works here, except for one person. But she’s awesome. So she lives around the corner. SNL: And what did you study at SAIC? CC: I studied sculpture and sometimes sound. I never took a performance class except for one time, which was about the practicalities of being a performance artist. I don’t know, it just never felt …

Free Write Arts & Literacy, and the Work of Justice Within (and Without) the Walls of Juvenile Justice

This project asked us to envision justice. It offered the arts as a lens. As I first began to wrap my mind around the Envisioning Justice initiative (“Bringing Chicago together to examine and reimagine the criminal justice system through a creative lens”), I entered a rabbit hole of unanswerable and annoyingly abstract questions, like, what is art? (Beauty? Truth? Life? Fantasy?) And, what is art for? (Self-expression? Transcendence? Joy? Education? Justice?) Can it really be for justice? And then, of course, what is justice? How does something as wishy-washy and abstract as art bear on something as heavy and real as incarceration? In the two articles I published previously for the Envisioning Justice writing residency, I included responses to the prompt, “How do you envision justice?” from two artists who have been working within Illinois jails and prisons for years. Both responses were not cynical, but rather the opposite; they were tired of the question. It’s the work, not the envisioning of the work, that needs to get done, they seemed to say. Here’s Sarah …

In Conversation with Artist Jireh L. Drake

Even if you haven’t met Jireh L. Drake (they/them) before, you may have heard their voice bouncing off the walls of a CTA platform–laughing, chanting or freestyling. Always enfolded within the city’s cacophonous soundscape. Always amongst people. Their spirit and energy can be felt even before they are seen. Jireh is a Black trans artist, curator, organizer and non-binary baddie who uses mixed media to explore the interdependency of social structures, salient identities, and history. Through drawing, they illustrate the sensations of movement and texture that overlap to visually evoke the interconnectedness of power, race, people, ideas, and cultural-historical movements. In their work, everyday life, Black queer existence, and experiences are unearthed and unpacked. They are a founding member of For the People Artists Collective, a squad of Black and Artists of Color who also organize and create work that “uplifts and projects struggles, resistance, liberation, and survival within and for marginalized communities and movements.” Their work, it seems, is a reaction to a feeling, a moment, or a conversation. Because of this, it always feels …

Faces of Hyde Park with Brian Carroll

I must have stumbled upon Brian’s work when I first moved to Chicago — roughly five years ago — where I found my home in Hyde Park. It’s been years and I’m still here, still walking down 55th, taking a left, passing The Cove and finding a sunny spot at Promontory Point. After five years I have come to know familiar faces, people who I’ve never spoken to but I’ve seen every morning. When I stopped into Open Produce, the local grocery store, this summer, a regular customer stopped me and said, “I didn’t see you at the lake this morning. I brought Bridget, but we must have missed you.” Bridget, his dog, is always swimming over to me during my morning dips. We usually talk for a few moments when I exit the water, but it’s nothing monumental. But there he is, every morning, and there I am, too, like clockwork waiting to see each other on our morning swim. Since following him on social media years ago, I’ll scroll through my feed and I’ll stop, and smile, as …