When I visited La Catrina Café last Saturday night, my view of the commotion inside was at first restricted by the lines of condensation on a large window. I stepped closer to inspect the crowd: books held to their chests, they shuffled eagerly around a busy table. As they came and went, I caught a glimpse of one small figure, bent over slightly, signing a copy of his book. It was Japanese photographer Akito Tsuda. He looked up at and I noticed his smile, one that encompassed the entirety of his face. I entered the venue, and Latin music wrapped around me, ushering me inside to a gracious assembly of Pilsen locals.
Chicago is one of the cultural powerhouses of the world,” muses Mark Kelly, the newly appointed Commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. “We have thousands of great artists and so we need to support our artists, we need to value our artists and then…they can…make our city a better place by bringing their art onto the streets.” Kelly is referring to the 50×50 Neighborhood Project, a Year of Public Art initiative announced by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in late 2016 to install public art in every ward in Chicago in 2017.
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.
Between Pilsen and Bridgeport, between the Eleanor Boathouse’s spiked rooftops and the factories lining Bubbly Creek, sits the Floating Museum’s latest project, a barge that aims to carry collaborative, site-specific art along the Chicago River. The soft rumble of nearby traffic and the shouts of high school rowing coaches fill the humid August air.
By 9pm, the tent set up in the Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago’s central courtyard was jostling with people. Outside it drizzled miserably, as it had all day, although this did nothing to deter the crowd. Emily Hooper Lansana, the Logan Center’s associate director of community arts engagement, must have been right when she introduced the next act as “magnetic.” A slice of Chicago was packed into that tent, ready to give some of their own a proper homecoming. After all, it’s a rare feat that the South Side-born and raised members of the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble—all of them children of the jazz legend Phil Cohran, and on the road to becoming legends in their own right—return to play a free set for their native city.
Over four years after the school closed, on Saturday afternoon, October 7, the Overton Elementary building temporarily reopened to the public for Opening Closings: Reactivating Closed Chicago Public Schools.
The Englewood Arts Collective is a group of nine artists, working in diverse media, who came together earlier this year to influence public perceptions of Englewood and improve access to art within the neighborhood. I sat down with Collective members Tonika Johnson (a photographer), Janell Nelson (a graphic designer), and Joe Nelson (a muralist) to talk about the forming of the Collective and its plans for the future.
Years ago, the artist and graffiti-writer Miguel Aguilar, also known as Kane-One, came to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) as an undergraduate with little classroom art training, but with experience in street art stretching back to age thirteen.
As part of an artistic initiative to bring more aesthetic life into the Burnham Wildlife Corridor, a series of “Gathering Spaces” were recently introduced into the long stretch of park. These five spaces— “Sankofa for the Earth,” “Sounding Bronzeville,” “Caracol,” “La Ronda Paraketa,” and “Set in Stone”—offer refuge for those who find themselves tired along their travels. An attractive getaway from the already serene landscape that envelops them, each Gathering Space has its own important backstory that connects to its creation, material, and neighborhood. Spread out between the three neighborhoods of Bronzeville, Chinatown, and Pilsen, the five Gathering Spaces were created by organizations located in their respective communities.