The Pheidole morrisi is a species of ant whose existence in New York’s Long Island tends to be confined to the area under power lines. The limitation of this animal life to fragments of land that happen to be spared death-by-concrete struck Andrew Yang, an associate professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), as quite poignant. In urban environments, we now look for and find wildness only in spaces that have been specifically designated for nonhuman purposes.
This past fall, perceptive Chicago art lovers may have noticed the absence of one long-standing tradition: after forty-five years, the Pilsen East Artists’ Open House wasn’t happening.
On the first floor of the Lacuna Artists Lofts, near the abstract floating reclaimed wood sculpture, past the neon Converse All-Stars wall hanging, around the eleven-foot-tall vintage cowhide couch-swing with USB port armrests, you enter a narrow room.
The stately Hamilton Park Cultural Center is home to an overwhelming variety of community programming. In a given month, the auditorium’s stage might be the backdrop for a yoga class, a film screening, or a footwork showcase by dance crew The Era. On Saturday, October 15, it served as the site of the first annual Englewood Art Fair, which drew over a hundred attendees. Teenage girls circled booths selling jewelry, drawings, t-shirts, bags, and aromatherapy oils, snacking on complimentary tea sandwiches and brie. An African art pop-up store took up a side room by the entrance, displaying dozens of West African carved statues and paintings for sale at unbelievably reasonable prices. In the auditorium, toddlers climbed up the stairs to the stage, where featured artist Tonika Johnson’s photos were displayed.
Open on the corner of 19th Street and Morgan, Produce Model Gallery is ready to speak back to its neighbors. Artists Javier Bosques and Maggie Crowley bought the gallery space in early 2016, and debuted its inaugural exhibition, “FRUIT,” on July 23. Originally a laundromat, the artists have kept the original signage in order to preserve its history in the neighborhood.
In the back room of a sneaker store in Wicker Park, four of the five founding members of Cliché, a Chicago-based female artist collective, are seated on stools hastily grabbed from between stocked shoeboxes. They’re electric when in conversation with each other, perched in a semi-circle and talking female empowerment, artistry, and speaking their ambitions into reality. It’s characteristic of the momentum that has colored the collective since its inception a year ago. In that time, the group has showcased at SXSW, begun an all-female DJ-performer series called Pussy Control, and most recently collaborated with Chance the Rapper’s new nonprofit organization, Social Works Inc., at his Magnificent Coloring Day music-activism-festival-fair-extravaganza held at US Cellular Field.