In Chicago, at least, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) has started to seem like a part of the arts establishment. A Power Stronger Than Itself, George Lewis’s landmark history of the Black music collective, came out in 2008. And in 2015, a blowout fiftieth anniversary concert series and a retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art further solidified the group’s legacy. With all this institutional ticker tape falling, it’s easy to forget what the AACM actually is: an insurgent arts collective, a case study in the use of communal organization to create visionary work. They’ve stuck to the same collectivist principles for over half a century, building a cohesive international community while writing a wealth of strikingly original music.
On Thanksgiving night and again in January, on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, a Chicago tradition unfolded at Hyde Park restaurant-venue the Promontory. Revelers packed the floor until the early hours of the morning, dancing to the music of the Chosen Few DJs. The guys behind the turntables blasted a slowly evolving soundtrack of classic disco, pop, R&B, hip-hop, and punk over an omnipresent bass drum thump. Club-goers went home bleary and content.
On Sunday, February 26, the airy interior of the Zhou B Art Center hummed with activity. Student artists mingled with peers, parents, and school staff in a showcase of the state’s best artwork by high school students. This was the general exhibition for the Illinois High School Art Exhibition (IHSAE), thrown every year at the Bridgeport gallery by an association of Illinois art teachers to recognize the state’s outstanding student artists.