Recently, I took a Japanese calligraphy class for the first time. As the instructor set up the materials on the table, he showed me a variety of tools, including brushes with thin and fat bristle, handmade fine oil soot Ink Sticks, and my favorite: some of his own collection of calligraphy work. The way the black ink settled into the paper, the strokes thin in some places and bigger in others, the way each symbol resembled his knowledge and control of the brush, struck me as it reminded me of another art form I’ve become interested over the years: graffiti-writing.
The second floor of Betty Shabazz International Charter School felt immediately familiar. Teenagers bounced between white tiled walls, in and out of classrooms, freely running through the long halls while parents passed by cradling younger children. Chairs lined the hallway in two rows, neatly crowding and condensing audience members as they waited to be admitted into the classroom where the We Real Cool fashion show would take place. As chatter filled the remaining space in the aisle, I tried to figure out why it felt like I had been here before. Like a home that makes you feel instantly comfortable, visiting Shabazz felt like returning rather than visiting.
Kahari here, to briefly introduce y’all to the big homey Desmond “Des Money” Owusu: a native Chicagoan and fellow South Sider whose passions as a designer and photographer have led him to blessing the world with a legacy of projects that are community driven and civically minded. To say the least, Des is a pillar in the Chicago creative community and steward for many others coming up with him. While simultaneously building upon his own streetwear label “We All We Got,” Des also co-owns and runs the Fat Tiger Workshop. A Black-owned clothing boutique alongside friends and colleagues Vic Lloyd, Rello Jones, and Joe Freshgoods.
Upon entering Sanctuary Cafe, the social justice–minded coffee shop that opened last year in Hyde Park’s University Church, I immediately noticed the wooden benches, the way the lamps light the space, and how the low chatter of people in the space all reinforce the idea of sanctuary, a safe space. A triptych of murals on the far wall are part of artist-in-residence Katherine Cavanaugh’s collection “Blessed Are Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness.” Initially, the work conveys different ideas of safety to the viewer, whether through a physical space, an object, or even just a moment. But the work, especially its title, can also be seen as a catalyst or a motto for those who seek to find a path through passion and through helping others.
On a sunny day in West Englewood, cars zoomed past as a new mural was being laid out on the side of 15th Ward Alderman Raymond Lopez’s office. What started out as a simple blue background took on layers of vibrant blue and purple tones, with dashes of yellow and white for contrast. Every now and then, artists Sam Kirk and Jenny Q. stood back to admire their work and gain perspective on what needed to be added next.
“When you are surrounded by darkness I will be your light, say my name, Pound! Pound! Pound! That’s the sound of the time for us to wake up, don’t make my life a hashtag, say my name and make my life a legend.” – Royal
If you take a ride on the Jackson Park Express bus—going either way on Hyde Park Boulevard past Cornell Avenue—you’ll catch a glimpse of a relatively new, large-scale mural on the south wall of the Hyde Park Art Center (HPAC).
When Anne Keough, the branch manager at Blackstone Library, looked in the cabinets behind her desk during recent renovations, she didn’t expect to find a treasure trove of historic documents. Blackstone Library opened in Kenwood in 1904 as the first branch of the Chicago Public Library system. In Keough’s office sat volumes of Shakespeare from the late 1800s, old copies of the Hyde Park Herald, and decades-old library policies. Weekly editor Rod Sawyer spoke with Keough about her discoveries, the history of the Chicago Public Library System, and the importance of time capsules.
This week on SSW Radio, we spoke with a home baker, a library branch manager, and heard stories from Englewood Speaks
Gloria “Gloe” Talamantes is a graffiti educator, artist, Chicago native, and founder of the Brown Wall Project. Gloe created this public art initiative in Little Village in 2006 to beautify the city by painting on walls that the city has buffed—the practice of painting over walls with brown paint to remove graffiti. The Weekly sat down with Gloe to talk public art, erasure, and community engagement.