When we last profiled Ciera Mckissick, she was putting on fashion shows as part of her residency at the Chicago Art Department and editing AMFM, her online culture magazine, while harboring ambitions of opening an artist collective space in Pilsen. In the two and three-quarter years since then, she made that dream a reality, opening an AMFM storefront gallery on 21st Street that quickly garnered city-wide acclaim. Shortly after this interview aired on SSW Radio in August, Mckissick announced in a Facebook post that disputes with AMFM’s neighbors and landlords have resulted in the gallery being booted out of its space. True to form, it celebrated its tenure with a closing party, and has continued to put on outside events, like the close of its three-part West Side food and music festival FEAST. It has also raised over $1,400 in a fundraiser to secure a new physical space for the collective. This interview has been edited for length and clarity; listen to the full version of this interview that aired on SSW Radio, the Weekly’s radio show and podcast.
I met with David Mihalyfy on a warm summer night in Bridgeport. We were originally supposed to conduct our interview at First Base, a now-closed sports bar, but realized soon after arriving it would be too loud to conduct an interview there. We relocated to some chairs outside Scoops Ice Cream on 31st Street and continued over a strawberry Italian ice (for me) and a chocolate-covered frozen banana (for him).
When I meet Matt Muse on a bright August morning, the South Side-raised rapper is on top of his game. The night before our interview at WHPK 88.5 FM’s broadcast station in Hyde Park, he’d doubled as featured artist and host for Young Chicago Authors’ WordPlay, the city’s longest-running open mic. Earlier in the summer, he’d performed at Taste of Chicago and Fox 32’s Good Morning Chicago, and in the days to come, he’d head out to New York City for a sold-out performance with Sofar Sounds and to celebrate his twenty-sixth birthday.
Akenya is a singer, pianist, and composer from Chicago. In honor of the end of Lyme Disease Awareness Month, this past May, Akenya released a single titled “Decay.” Her fans have waited over two years since the release of her last single, “Disappear.” “Decay” intimately describes her experiences with Lyme Disease, an illness spread by ticks that can cause fatigue and pain, among other symptoms; some 30,000 cases are reported to the Centers for Disease Control every year. A percentage of proceeds from the song go to the LymeLight Foundation, which provides grants for Lyme disease treatment. The Weekly sat down with Akenya to talk about her relationship to Lyme disease and her single. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
We’ve come to see the Interview Issue as a place for a different kind of story. The necessities of the newscycle whittle down most interviews to their most barebones and essential parts, leaving out hours of storytelling, shared expertise, and personal histories.
WE THE VANGUARD (2016 -) is a continuing photographic archive of Black women/femmes shifting the contemporary culture of Chicago, primarily emerging and/or at the vanguard of arts, culture, + social justice. This project seeks to share context in regard to the creative and continuing labor of women at the vanguard of cultural innovation and expansion.
On 73rd Street and Paxton, toward Merrill, at least one hundred people marched: past cars, over puddles, into alleys and across the block. As they marched, they held bundles of herbs in the air, played percussion, danced, and waved flags. This scene was the beginning of the Back Alley Jazz Festival—and the man at the front of the crowd, who rode in a mint-green Pedicab and wore a sash that read “Grand Marshall,” was Jimmy Ellis, a saxophonist who has been playing in Chicago since 1948.
Teklife is a crew of producers and DJs known for pioneering and popularizing footwork, a genre which produces some of the most futuristic sounds and styles in electronic music even as it draws upon decades of Chicago dance history. In the late 2000s, the group emerged from the Ghettoteknitianz outfit (2004-2009), and went on to prove itself as the decisive force in footwork’s explosion onto the international scene. Between drops on experimental electronic labels Planet Mu and Hyperdub, DJ Rashad and DJ Spinn began touring abroad, bringing their frenetic beats to a growing audience. Today, Teklife is known overseas for pushing footwork forward—and known locally for maintaining the culture.
Viviana Gentry Fernandez-Pellon is a fourth-generation Chicagoan who has taken on an issue they suffer from personally: environmental racism. Co-owner of the Chicago Mushroom Company, Fernandez-Pellon lives in the Pullman neighborhood, a three minute alley-walk away from the community garden they codirect called the Cooperation Operation. It is located on a formerly toxic site that neighbors forced the EPA to remediate (remove contaminants and restore ecological balance) in 1983. That process created public records that Fernandez-Pellon could request to view through the Freedom of Information Act. They did, and used the information to learn the history of the industrial uses—and remediation efforts—within the site. Today, they are using mushrooms, a method of bioremediation—accomplishing remediation through living organisms—to heal that soil, which has suffered from decades of industrial contamination. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
If we can learn something valuable about people by looking at the “mundane, everyday objects” of their daily lives, as Rebecca Graff suggests, the assortment of items littered around her office tells us the obvious—that she is an urban archaeologist. Lanyards from academic conferences are pinned to the bulletin board in a messy gaggle, stray surveying equipment sits in the corner, and her shelves are full of glass bottles with worn-off labels, artifacts saved from digs. Even apparent signs of hobbies, like the half-shelf full of beer cans, lead back to her discipline: the cans are gifts from her students, finds from antique shows across the world.