All posts tagged: history

The Archivettes and Saving Herstory

After realizing that lesbian history was disappearing, Deborah Edel and Joan Nestle founded the Lesbian Herstory Archives (LHA) in New York City. And just like that, a 40 year project was born. Documentary filmmaker Megan Rossman created the film The Archivettes, which follows the story of the archives and the women who saved lesbian history. Rossman found out about LHA when a friend came to visit her in New York City. “She saw it on Google maps, which encouraged me to find out more about this archive that was in my neighborhood,” said Rossman in an email correspondence. After gaining an interest in filmmaking while working as a multimedia journalist at The Washington Post, she has worked on several documentary projects, and The Archivettes is her first feature-length film. The film will be screening this weekend in Chicago, where she has familial and personal ties. She says that screening the film here “feels like coming home.” The film opens with an emotional story about Melissa Saks and her partner Ellie Conant, who passed away at …

‘The Artist as a Catalyst of Social Change?’ Part 1: Nicole Marroquin

As many contemporary artists, arts organizations, and other cultural laborers continue a decades-long trajectory of reorienting their practices more deliberately towards and within the social world, forms and approaches have morphed through a collective re-imagining of the production, dissemination, and sociopolitical potential of art. These modes have sought to broaden access and participation in the arts, transform relationships between people, forge practices rooted in ethics as much as in aesthetics, and other similar gestures toward aligning art with notions of social justice and reform. Yet amidst this grappling, a number of unresolved riddles remain regarding art’s place in daily life: who is art’s “community,” and what exactly do we mean by “community”? What is art’s relationship to democracy? Can increased access to the arts also advance civic participation more broadly? What is the role of the artist in society? Can art and artists be catalysts for social change — and should they? Such issues and questions reverberate through the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum’s current exhibition Participatory Arts: Crafting Social Change, which explores the influence that Addams …

A zine entitled "Black Queens" by Marissa B. On the cover, two young black people with bare shoulders and intricately braided hair stand forehead-to-forehead. A single braid of hair extends from each of their heads, curving forward to form a heart between them. Photo by Jordan Paige. Image courtesy of the Museum of Vernacular Arts.

Arts on the Move at Romi Crawford’s Mobile Curricula

If you found yourself in a South Side public space on a sunny Saturday this past summer, you may have found yourself in an open-air art class. Behind folding tables piled with original pieces, historic artifacts, and raw arts materials, educators delivered short, impromptu lectures on key figures in Chicago’s rich history of Black art and engaged students of all ages with the opportunity to make a piece of their own. This was “Art Moves,” Romi Crawford’s summer-long program to celebrate neighborhood arts in the neighborhoods that spawned them. The outdoor events may have passed, but you can still catch Crawford speaking at the Chicago Cultural Center this fall as a part of The Designs of African American Life (November 2 and 3). Crawford calls this approach to arts education the “discussion model,” and it really is a conversation more than a lecture. The educators and facilitators (including Wisdom Baty, Robert Earl Paige, Jennefer Hoffmann, and Scheherazade Tillet) make their arts and activities available to any passersby, an approach that lends itself to discovery. It …

Archivist Candace Ming Preserves and Uplifts the Cultural Memory of Chicago’s South Side

Candace Ming (she/her) is the current Project Manager and Archivist for the South Side Home Movie Project (SSHMP), an initiative spearheaded by Dr. Jacqueline Stewart at the University of Chicago. SSHMP collects, preserves, digitizes, exhibits, and documents home movies made by–mostly Black–residents of Chicago’s South Side neighborhoods. Candace regularly facilitates workshops focused on preserving digital materials and sharing ways people can create individual archives to sustain their family history, traditions, and heritage. I became aware of Candace’s work with South Side Home Movie Project while attending the Alternative Histories, Alternative Archives symposium in Fall 2017. She participated in a panel and discussed the role of alternative archives–those which exist and function outside of elitist, academic archival spaces. SSHMP is an alternative archive in that it prioritizes the personal narratives of everyday Black folks and creates a visual history of Chicago’s South Side neighborhoods. ‘Alternative archives’ are subjective in nature, (as opposed to “neutral”). They seek to preserve and collect materials from and about marginalized communities and historical moments. In doing so, they amplify the otherwise …

Queens Who Bathe and Queer Visibility

Andie Meadows (Miss Meadows) is a queer photographer in Chicago whose photographic project, “Queens Who Bathe” immediately pulled me in to their overarching work. New and familiar faces, elegant poses, and dramatic looks occupy the project’s life on Instagram. What is also notable are the descriptions and mentions in the caption that illustrate the importance of collaboration and how artists, creatives, activists, and performers make up the vibrant and growing Chicago family. I met with Andie at the WasteShed—a resource that provides repurposed arts, crafts, and materials—where we discussed queer history, building a space in their tub, and the vulnerability involved when being photographed. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. S. Nicole Lane: You said you plan events for the Chicago History Museum? Andie Meadows: Yeah, so it’s called “The Out Committee.” It’s a volunteer committee that’s been going for fifteen years. I’ve been on it for two. They do a season of programs, usually it’s three or four. I’m working to get them to do more throughout the year, because I am not just gay for [Pride] …

Preserving Celluloid Film: A Look at Archiving in Chicago

In 2011, visual artist Tacita Dean opened her exhibition “FILM” at the Tate Modern where she responded to the destruction of celluloid film. She exhibited a silent, 11 minute, 35mm looped film in the London museum. The exhibition set out to provide a physical display for viewers to see the difference between digital and celluloid. The history of the moving image, important to Dean, exhibited the richness in color and the power of the projection. The New York Times writes, “Like the vinyl long-playing record, the Polaroid camera and the manual typewriter, celluloid has attracted a generation of artists who have come of age in a digital world and have developed a nostalgic soft spot for analog.” I spoke to Dan Erdman, an archivist at the Media Burn, and Director Nancy Watrous from Chicago Film Archives, about the importance of preserving celluloid and the impact of film on history. No one ever claimed that film restoration was sexy. It’s granular. It’s a bit mundane. It’s lots of organizing and dusting off grimy surfaces. It’s protective gloves and …

Beyond the Page: Saleem Hue Penny

“Beyond the Page” digs into the process and practice of writers and artists who work at the intersection of literary arts and other fields. In February, I was excited to speak with “rural hip-hop blues” artist Saleem Hue Penny—whose work I have long admired—about his recent poetry chapbook and its audio companion, his process for creating within and across multiple media, and his work’s relationship to place, childhood, and the natural world. Follow @huedotart to hear about future readings, including the “Tammy Journal Takeover” at Pilsen Community Books this spring. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Marya Spont-Lemus: You call yourself a “rural hip-hop blues” artist. How did you come to that framing for you and your work and what does it mean to you? Saleem Hue Penny: So I have traditionally used the acronym “h.u.e.”, for “hope uplifts everything.” It’s a double-play on my middle name, of Hue. My mother gave it to my little brother and me because we’re different shades in a bigger picture. And at some point I …

Weekly Picks March 17-23

While a new Sixty Inches from Center is in the making, please enjoy our weekly calendar, a list of visual art related events happening in Chicago. Events are chosen based on the information that is put in front of us. If you would like to take advantage of having your event listed on our website please send a press release to reuben.westmaas@sixtyinchesfromcenter.org   MONDAY || March 17 Acquiescings + Hauntings at Poonie’s Cabaret 7:30pm – 9:00pm Links Hall 3111 N Western Ave Chicago, IL 60618 $5 A coalition of dancers, musicians, and visual artists join Poonie’s Cabaret for a thoughtful exploration of loss and mourning. Loss isn’t just an absence–it’s a burden, something those left behind carry with them. And it it doesn’t have to be the loss of a person. When something deeply cherished disappears, it creates a negative space to be navigated. It’s that negative space that inspires this performance, which stars such performers as Mister Junior, a fixture of the city’s boylesque scene, and hip hop artist Terri “Lyric” Green, who won the 2013 Unsigned Only …

The Logan Square Comfort Station: In the 'Art' of a Community

Last fall, as the end of sweater weather drew near, three local artists took advantage of the final surge of Logan Square outdoor market goers to breathe new life into a neighborhood landmark.  If you live or work in the area, you’ve probably passed by it a hundred times, that little Tudor-style building across from the Logan monument.  For years the building dubbed the “Comfort Station” sat empty and untouched, slowly deteriorating.  It was not forgotten, however, and this past fall the City of Chicago leased the turn-of-the-century building, newly restored, to Logan Square Preservation, the volunteer organization responsible for the National Historic District and City Landmark District designations of Logan Square and its boulevards.  This change of hands marked a new era for the Comfort Station that once served as a refuge for streetcar commuters along Milwaukee Avenue.  Within two weeks of the acquisition, Logan Square homeowner, preservation member and artist, David Keel, initiated and executed the Comfort Station’s inaugural gallery exhibition in collaboration with Chicago artists Josh Crow and Terry Swafford. “It’s something …