Existing conditions at Garfield and Prairie, where the Washington Park Arts Incubator will open in early 2013.
Last week, the University of Chicago’s Arts and Public Life initiative announced the selection of five Chicago-based artists for its 2012-13 artists-in-residence program. The artists are musician LeRoy Bach, photographer Cecil McDonald Jr., musician Tomeka Reid, filmmaker Cauleen Smith, and writer Avery R. Young. “The number and quality of applicants exceeded our expectations and underscored the need for more programs of this kind on the South Side of Chicago,” said Carol Adams, president and CEO of the DuSable Museum of African-American History and a member of the jury. “The 2012-13 Arts and Public Life artists-in-residence program will provide great opportunities for the artists to hone and showcase their crafts and will add to the cultural richness of the surrounding community.”
Chicagoist emailed Cauleen Smith, who told us, “Too often students are cast in the role of passive consumer just as artists are increasingly cast in the role of service provider. I look forward to creating an environment where ‘creative reciprocity’ defines the relationships in play around the Incubator, from artists to students to community members to small business people to commuters using the EL – I think will all benefit from shedding expectations about roles and embracing the process of recognition that comes from dealing with each other as people.”
The artists will move into the Washington Park Arts Incubator studio space at the end of December/early January to begin their 10-month residency. Over the course of their residency, they’ll have access to academic and research resources, studio space, a woodshop, performance and practice space at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, and program and exhibition space at the Incubator. Each artist will also receive $10,000 and a stipend for materials.
During the next few months the artists will spend the bulk of their time acclimating to the new studio space and mapping out their ambitions for their residencies.
“This residency prioritizes public engagement over studio introspection,” Smith said. “To my mind, there are many constituencies that appear to require engagement, mainly the University of Chicago students, the Washington Park residents, the Chicago Arts community. This creates a new equation for the artist. Rather than entering the Incubator space and the community with a preconceived idea of what would be cool, it makes more sense to spend some time exploring the dreams, desires, and urgent needs of stakeholders and proceed from there.”
The artists will begin exhibiting their work as programmed presentations and crits in the spring. While much of their activity will take place at the Incubator, the artists will work with the campus proper, particularly the Logan Center. There are plans to open up the Incubator regularly for informal conversations between community members and the artists-in-residence.
The artists-in-residence represent a diverse blend of talents, backgrounds, and interests. LeRoy Bach is a musician and composer who has been active in the Chicago music scene for over 25 years. In addition to leading the monthly gathering Low Tide Dance, he is currently a member of the Black Monks of Mississippi, and maintains a busy performance schedule. He has collaborated with musician Marvin Tate, guitarist Bill MacKay, musician Tim Kinsella, and writer Avery R. Young, among others.
In an email interview with Chicagoist, he said, “Our residency will be based out of a sturdy, neglected, brick building. We’re going to offer this sleeping building some music and new poems, new wood floors, and new plumbing, and it’s going to gather us together and shelter us with dances and dinners and planning meetings. Maybe at these meetings we sort out policy that continues to honor the existing infrastructure and social life of this neighborhood.”
Cecil McDonald Jr. works in photography, video, and text to “explore the intesections of masculinity, familial relations, and the artistic and intellectual pursuits of black culture.” He currently is an adjunct professor and teaching artist at Columbia College’s Center for Community Arts Partnership. He studied fashion, house music, and dance club culture at Columbia, where he later received his MFA in photography. He has received numerous awards for his work and has been exhibited both nationally and internationally.
Tomeka Reid is a cellist, composer, and educator who has led string improvisation workshops in Italy and the US and co-directed the string program at the University of Chicago’s Laboratory School for seven years. Her work has been showcased at festivals including Umbria Jazz, An Insolent Noise, and Vignola Jazz and she has been awarded numerous residencies for composition and participated in the 2012 Jazz Composers Institute at the University of California Los Angeles.
Avery R. Young calls his blend of phonetics, linguistics, hymns, and jazz, “Sunday mornin’ jook-joint.” A Cave Canem fellow, Young has worked as a teaching artist and mentor for youth in creative writing and theatre. His work explores the politics and attributes of the African-American experience. His essays on HIV awareness, misogyny, and sexism in arts and media, educational reform, and workplace art integration have appeared in a variety of publications and his written work has been published in several anthologies. He has performed at the Hip Hop Theatre Festival, Lollapalooza, WordStock and on BET, MTV, ABC, and WGN.
Cauleen Smith creates multi-channel film and video installations that “incorporate scuptural objects and text, drawing from her roots in structuralist filmmaking to afro-futurist narrative strategies.” She has held consecutive residencies in Chicago at ThreeWalls, the Black Metropolis Research Consortium, and the Experimental Sound Studio, exhibited at the MCA, and was named Outstanding Artist by the National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture.
“I want to be helpful in thinking about how we want a vital, safe, and solvent community to look,” she said. “As a filmmaker I have a lot of training in coordinating, facilitating, and staging. I hope these skills can be helpful in materializing ideas and clarifying intentions.”
We look forward to seeing what unfolds as these artists create work and engage with the community around them.