Tag Archives: Arts & Culture

Energy Never Dies: Afro-Optimism and Creativity in Black Chicago

This holiday season, my first book (which deals with many of the ideas and themes in this book, will be published through University of Illinois Press. I’m over the moon to get this collection of uplifting narratives about the city I adore out into the world. Energy Never Dies: Afro-Optimism and Creativity in Chicago outlines the undefeatable culture of Black Chicago, past and present.

ABOUT THE BOOK

From Afro Sheen to Theaster Gates and from Soul Train to Chance the Rapper, Black Chicago draws sustenance from a culture rooted in self-determination, aspiration, and hustle. Ayana Contreras embarks on a journey to share the implausible success stories and breathtaking achievements of Black Chicago’s artists and entrepreneurs. Past and present generations speak with one another, maintaining a vital connection to a beautiful narrative of Black triumph and empowerment that still inspires creativity and pride. Contreras weaves a hidden history from these true stories and the magic released by undervalued cultural artifacts. As she does, the idea that the improbable is always possible emerges as an indestructible Afro-Optimism that binds a people together.

Passionate and enlightening, Energy Never Dies uses the power of storytelling to show how optimism and courage fuel the dreams of Black Chicago.

“Contreras puts virtually every aspect of Black Chicago culture, music, business breakthroughs, and more on the table, then shows exactly how they are all interconnected. She writes the book as the Black experience is actually lived–this guy knows that guy, but the other guy used to work for the two of them. And none of it would’ve happened were it not for a certain audacious manner of hope and optimism found in Black Chicago.”–Lee Bey, author of Southern Exposure: The Overlooked Architecture of Chicago’s South Side

“In Energy Never Dies, Ayana Contreras crafts an intensely intimate and loving portrait of Black Chicago that that will illuminate, even to lifelong South and West Siders, the distinctiveness of our cultural history and worldview. This book offers urgently needed blueprints for extending the work and actualizing the dreams of the Great Migrants.”–Jacqueline Najuma Stewart, coeditor of L.A. Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema

You can preorder the book here: https://www.press.uillinois.edu/books/?id=84kcq6nx9780252044069


Stony Island (the movie) returns to Chicago!

from siskelfilmcenter.org:

STONY ISLAND
(aka MY MAIN MAN FROM STONY ISLAND)
1978, Andrew Davis, USA, 97 min.
With Richard Davis, Edward Stoney Robinson

At the Siskel Center, 164 North State Street, Chicago

Wednesday April 4th (8pm-9:30pm), Thursday April 5th  (8:15pm-9:45pm)
“Stony Island has been the birthplace of great American music and amazing musical talent, nurturing the likes of my fifty year brother, Herbie Hancock, Chaka Kahn, Curtis Mayfield and Maurice White. I’m also a kid from the South side of Chicago . MUSIC MAKES US ALL ONE AND “STONY ISLAND ” IS A TESTAMENT TO MUSIC BEING THE WORLD’S COMMON LANGUAGE. THIS TIMELESS MOVIE IS FILLED WITH BIG-TIME HEART AND SOUL. From the Gene Barge tenor sax version of “Just a Closer Walk with Thee”, a favorite of Dr. Martin Luther King, to the guitarist’s guitarist Phil Upchurch, one of my all time favorites – this flick is kicking!”
—Quincy Jones

For his first feature, Chicago native Andrew Davis (THE FUGITIVE) made the most of atmospheric neighborhood locations on Chicago’s South Side in this lively, funky, bluesy story of two dreamers pulling together a band from nothing. Multicultural before it was in fashion, and independent before there was a movement, STONY ISLAND became a breakout phenomenon. Richie, a Stony Island guitar player, and his best friend Kevin, recruit their undiscovered talent in Chicago’s dives and alleyways. A venal alderman, an insurance scam, and the state funeral of Da’ Boss are the icing on the cake, but the cake is music, with Gene “Daddy G” Barge, Larry Ball, Ronnie Barron, and more. Also includes appearances by Rae Dawn Chong and Dennis Franz, and the cinematography of Tak Fujimoto (FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF). 35mm. (BS)

Director Andrew Davis will be present at both screenings for audience discussion. He will be joined by Tamar Hoffs, Gene Barge and Susanna Hoffs on Wednesday and by Richie Davis, Tamar Hoffs and Susanna Hoffs on Thursday.

Stony Island comes to DVD April 24th, 2012.

 

Mark Bradford at the MCA: exercises in community, texture, and collaboration

"Scorched Earth" (2006), The Artist pictured in Foreground

So, I am totally late on this one… which is inexcusable really, because I was at the Opening of the exhibition.  Least I could have done is pub it.  But, alas….

Mark Bradford‘s Exhibition currently on view at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art is a Retrospective that really gives a sense of the artist’s use of layers to establish history and depth in his work.  A number of the pieces displayed (like “Strawberry”, [pictured below]) feature small square wrapping papers (the sort used in beauty parlors to augment rollers) as a medium.  One particular work utilizes sun faded wheatpaste movie posters.  A good measure of his materials are, in fact, well known residents of his neighborhood, and his work whispers of larger community-based issues. Some of his work even echos Topographical maps.

In part due to his works’ scale, and in part due to his use of texture, his work needs to be seen in person, rather than in print or on a screen.

On the Collaborative tip, during this past year, the Artist was Skyping and Zipping back and forth between his homebase of Los Angeles and our fair city working with youth from both Lindblom Math and Science Academy in West Englewood and the YOUMedia Program at the Harold Washington Library culminating in a well received Pop-Up Gallery exhibition of the Students’ work.  The exhibition (a part of the MCA-backed Mark Bradford Project) dealt with issues of community and mapping, while using a variety of mediums.  Many of the students agreed that they learned as much about life as they did about artistic practice from Bradford, who beautifully validated the burgeoning voices of the self-proclaimed “Art Kids”.

Mark Bradford’s work will be on display at the MCA from May 28-September 18, 2011

Museum of Contemporary Art

220 East Chicago Avenue, Chicago


Theaster Gates’ Dorchester Projects

What do you get when you mix a maverick artist with strong community ties and an Urban Planner? For one thing, Theaster Gates. For another, the Dorchester Projects, pictured above. Theaster has been purchasing properties in the Woodlawn/Grand Crossing neighborhood for a few years now, and has quietly acquired the stock of the former Dr. Wax record store as well as the now defunct Prairie Avenue Bookstore (both businesses were revered in their respective collector communities). He created a home for glass lantern slides that depict the canon of Western Fine Art. Using reclaimed materials, he is turning his properties into cultural community hubs, featuring curators and programming that reflects the collections and the community.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ll be curating the record collection in May and June of 2011, culminating in a series of talks on Chicago Music History (details to follow) and a couple of good, old-fashioned dance parties starring local-born music.

Read the New York Times article about what’s poppin on the South Side with the Dorchester Projects.


All Power To The People: The Revolutionary Art Of Emory Douglas

The University of Chicago’s Center for the Studies of Race, Politics, and Culture, DOVA (Department of Visual Arts) Temporary Gallery, Black Panther Party Illinois History Project, and Diasporal Rhythms for an exhibit of works by Emory Douglas, internationally known artist and former Black Panther Party Minister of Culture. Location: DOVA Temporary (5228 S. Harper). Exhibit runs December 2, 2009-January 2, 2010.

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some more about Mr. Douglas and his work after the jump


the heart of Funkadelic’s image, crafted in Chicago

Funkadelic - One Nation Under A Groove - Front

This week the Sun-Times published an article talking about Pedro Bell, the man behind the iconic cover art, liner notes, and other print ephemera for Funkadelic from 1973 till about 1986.  Pedro, a Chicago native who went by Sir Lleb, has hit hard times.  Today he’s facing dire straits in Hyde Park, though his work was recently featured in a retrospective of acceptional album art at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“Thick dust covers the gold lame shirt and silver leather coat in Pedro Bell’s closet.

The clothes are remnants from a brighter time when Bell, a rainbow Afro wig on his head and platform shoes on his feet, strutted through Chicago as a charter member of the ’70s funk revolution whose sound is heavily sampled in rap songs today. 

“It was psychedelic from a black perspective,” Bell said.

And despite the commercial success of Clinton’s music, Bell said he didn’t profit from it.

He’s broke.”  for more from Kara Spak’s article, click here

Last year, not only was his work featured in a retrospective entitled “Sympathy for the Devil”, but he embarked on a collaborative T-Shirt design project with Supreme, a skateboarding lifestyle store based in New York.  They captured a video interview with the man that you can catch here.  Despite this, he’s barely skirted eviction.  Every reissue that features his cover art is only a reminder of a former life, not a means of survival (which he needs).  Tragic, yet it’s one of the oldest story in the Music Industry.

Mr. Bell’s story is well worth digging into… For his 1994 interview with Jake Austen’s Roctober Magazine, click here

 


And now, a word from Chicago’s own Lady Terror

Harold's Chicken Shack #62

Image by swanksalot via Flickr

18086509_200Lady Terror says she’s a menace on a mission. Terrorizing for a cause. Be it staging a soapbox rant in front of Rothschild’s Liquors (clamouring for more grocery stores) or engaging in impromptu yoga at a Harold’s Chicken Shack (calling for inner city yoga centers for the sake of public health), her performance art and poetry is meant to highlight issues in her community, and to start dialogues about them.  She calls them “guerrilla art spectacles”.  And, she believes poverty is a form of terrorism.  She wants to “slay terror by dropping knowledge bombs to all”.
“I’m writing to give voice to the communities they have forgotten. I am mad. I want to know why you are so calm. We got work to do.”

Check the video clip below. Jive on…

Vodpod videos no longer available.


Marion Perkins: Sculpted a Better Chicago, a Better World

schulman_f1

Woodson Regional is a gem of the South Side.  I’ve always believed that.  One of my favorite locations of the Chicago Public Library, bar none.  The library, located at 95th and Halsted, boasts the Vivian Harsh Research Collection (all manner of Black Ephemera) and a really strong overall collection.  1 of only two regional libraries in the city (the others, save Harold Washington downtown are all “branches”), Woodson is stocked with literature and art from a good number of local sociologists, artists, and writers.  Case in point,  the temporary exhibit celebrating the Art (and activism) of sculptor Marion Perkins

Born in 1908, he moved to Chicago as a small child.  He worked as a dishwasher, freight handler, and postal clerk in his lifetime, and though in his artistic career he was lauded with awards (among them the Guggenheim Fellowship) he was never able to devote full time to his art.  Perkins was not only an artist, he was an activist for social change, fighting for both Ethiopian freedom and civil rights in his own backyard.

Visit Woodson for Woodson’s sake, but don’t forget to carve out time to see the temporary exhibit: “To See Reality in a New Light: the Art and Activism of Marion Perkins”, at Woodson until December 31, 2009.


The Art of Development: Marguerite Horberg’s Portoluz

In the news: a whole new vision of performance, development, art, and change!  Originally published in CHICAGO WEEKLY…. partisan arts

By: Veronica Gonzales

Envision this: a creative haven for artists both local and global to come together and encourage the economic growth of a community. A neighborhood place where artists, intellectuals, community activists, students, and visitors can work collaboratively towards creative expression and community building. Marguerite Horberg, drawing on over 20 years of experience with the acclaimed performing arts center HotHouse, hopes to make this lofty vision a reality with Porto Luz, an arts and culture center scheduled to open on Chicago’s South Side within the next year. Through this venture, Horberg plans to show the world a model for responsible economic stimulation of a creative community.

As Horberg writes it, her resume reads like an invitation for a challenge: “Catalyst, Artist, Unrepetent [sic] Socialist and Innovator.” Go ahead, try me, I dare you, she seems to say. Since her start as a Chicago-based entrepreneur in the late ‘70s, Horberg has been responsible for the creation of two now-defunct artisan clothing boutiques, Studio V and the Salon of Modalisque, as well as HotHouse, an internationally recognized nightclub and cultural center. After nearly 20 years at HotHouse, Horberg departed from the venue in 2006, a move that fueled her fire to found Porto Luz. With this, her latest enterprise, she pushes forward by laying down a serious plan ahead of time, hoping to disprove previous notions that her talents with HotHouse lay only as proprietor of artistic vision and mission.

click here for the rest of the porto luz story


Mookie & Poonie: Cohorts or Coincidence?

Tonight, Join my buddy Chris Hales (aka Tapedek) at the Chicago Art Department for an Art Opening (also featuring my guy Sean Alvarez on the Wheels of Steel).mook

Chris’s first solo show as a member of The Chicago Art Department showed an artist who knew what he wanted to do, yet was slightly unsure of his abilities. Though the show was pulled off with mild success, the thing that was missing was the attitude that personifies Chris Hales not only as an artist, but as a person.

This time around that mistake won’t be made again! “Mookie” has planned his revenge and has enlisted the help of others to pull off his second solo show at CAD. This one with little to no compromise. Come with no expectations and leave happy!

Mookie’s Revenge

@ the Chicago Art Department

1837 S Halsted

Chicago, IL

(6-10pm)

chris_n

Happening on Monday at Links Hall (for the SAUCY in you) is Poonie’s Cabaret:

poonie

The quarterly Cabaret features artists working in many different creative realms – dance, music, contact improvisation, performance art, voguing, drag, burlesque, cheerleading, etc. Proceeds go to the Duncan Erley memorial Coming Out of the Closet Fund for artists whose work explores healing, gay activism, and spiritual and sexual transformation.

Monday, June 15, 8:00 pm
$5 suggested donation
tickets available at door or over the phone

Location:
Links Hall
Street:
3435 N. Sheffield
City/Town:
Chicago, IL