Opening Thursday, May 13th, at 6:30PM
Equity Arts invites four Chicago culture leaders for a conversation about how the history of community space can redefine traditional ideas of what a monument is, and what it can be. Eric Williams, owner of The Silver Room, Joe Shanahan, owner of the Double Door & Metro, Meida McNeal, director of Honey Pot Performance, and Alma Wieser, director of Heaven gallery and Equity Arts will participate. The discussion will be moderated by Ciera Mckissick, founder of AMFM, and includes Meida McNeal’s project, the Chicago Black Social Culture Map that archives spaces from the Great Migration through the birth of House music.
Since the closing of iconic Wicker Park spaces like The Silver Room, Double Door and, most recently, the legendary Danny’s Tavern, there is a sense of loss in Chicago’s collective memory. This discussion aims to further refine ongoing dialogue about the cultural impact of gentrification and how it changes the city’s landscape, often exploiting the arts and BIPOC culture. In a time of displacement for Chicago culture, there is a need for deep healing, and for that, we must go inward, into the spaces where community and culture happen. Looking to the future, what models can create equitable and holistic space with the longevity of a monument?
This discussion will explore ideas of community space as a monument: Are the people, artists and spaces that make up a community an organic monument to its enduring significance? Can a historic structure be a physical monument? Equity Arts and Heaven Gallery are located in a building that holds a residual memory of community and arts since the early 80’s, that housed both Ed Marszewski’s Buddy gallery and Ned Schwartz’s Beret International. These spaces tell the history of the keepers of cultural property. The Double Door and The Silver Room were also located on Milwaukee Avenue, a Native American trail that predates the founding of the city of Chicago. As we reckon with the city’s past inequities and as we redevelop post pandemic, it is critical that the city’s culture control its own narrative and that redevelopment is channeled through the existing culture.
The Equity Arts project proposes the launch of The Chicago Model, seeking to place a historical arts property into a community land trust to preserve its affordability and creative use in perpetuity, in support of BIPOC arts leaders, making this creative space a monument that acknowledges its Native history and the culture that continues to be here. Equity Arts serves a holistic purpose, as an economic driver that fosters strength through diversity for contemporary healing, community skill sharing, and wealth building. Transformation can come from the acknowledgement of the monumental labor of creative artists of the past, present, and future, and in the kind of change that comes from intimate experiences in community spaces.
This project is sponsored by a grant generously donated by the Chicago Monuments Project. The Chicago Monuments Project intends to grapple with the often unacknowledged – or forgotten – history associated with the City’s various municipal art collections and provides a vehicle to address the hard truths of Chicago’s racial history, confront the ways in which that history has and has not been memorialized, and develop a framework for marking public space that elevates new ways to memorialize Chicago’s history.