Where does art live?” we asked in last year’s Arts Issue, exploring city initiatives, programs, and arts spaces throughout the South Side. This year, in this collection of reviews, interviews, profiles, photography, and visual art, above all we spotlight the voices of the artists themselves, asking: “Who’s responsible for that life?” Whether it’s the museum docent who introduces art to children from all over the city, the artist-curator starting a conversation about what an artistic community in her neighborhood can be, or the visual artist who emerged from the Savemoney collective, we hone in on the individuals—the everyday and the exceptional, the seasoned veterans and the young up-and-comers—who pinpoint what their communities need and how they can serve them.

Artistic works breathe life into their communities, but in this issue, we don’t forget what it takes to be an artist, or to become one. Our cover offers a parable of the growth that the following pages take to heart: that which comes to fruition slowly and organically within us as time passes. Whether in the artists’ own words or in our writers’ interrogation, these pieces root themselves in the artistic processes and inner lives that always come before art takes the stage or the mic or the exhibition wall. We see their blossoming in our customary print gallery that closes the issue: in this coda, the distinct works of art, quiet, fierce, and engaged, gesture to all the artists we only wish we could include.

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Say Beautiful → Blackstone Bicycle Works cultivates youth artists

Living in the Blankest of Times → Daniel Borzutzky’s Lake Michigan puts forth the monotony and horror of violence

Breaking It Down  Questioning and connecting to art with Smart Museum docent Katherine Davis

State of Nature → Mother Nature is raising “the collective conscious of damn-near the world through hip-hop”

Looking In From the Outside  Diana Quiñones Rivera on encounters and filmmaking in Woodlawn and beyond

Painting Politics → Alexander Tadlock uses art to encourage Mexican immigrants living in Chicago to vote in Mexico’s general election

Words, Pictures, and Gestures From Louder Than a Bomb  Highlights from the youth poetry slam hosted by Young Chicago Authors

Portrait of an Abstract Contemporary Artist → Nikko Washington on gentrification, aesthetic form, and the exploration of the Black experience

A Little Unity → A Washington Heights artist uses her studio to imagine the community area’s future and past

Safe Haven → Yollocalli as the future of youth-centered art

A Print Gallery → Work from Gregory Bae, students of Crane Medical Preparatory High School, William Camargo, Armani Howard, and more

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