Ewe women. regal. divine. beauty by design.

Ewe women of Ghana, Togo, Benin…

At the festival of reunion, home coming celebration of this year Ewe is placed under the sign of “dance, solidarity and reconciliation.” It remains an opportunity for Ewe people of Togo, Benin, Ghana and the Diaspora to rally Notsè considered their historical birthplace. Through the sphere of commemoration of the common life, it is also a way to transcend colonial boundaries for the harmonious development of the Ewe people.
The history of the Ewe people running around the wall of Agbogbo, King Agokoli, migration of the Ewe of from Nigeria stand in southern Togo.
When the Ewe came to Notsè, there was a lot of insecurity in the area, and the king Agokoli began to build a great wall around the city to protect against both enemies and certainly against wild animals. Agbogbo became a place of refuge because he has seen an influx of people fleeing insecurity and who had found shelter in Agbogbo. The population began to increase at the same time there were disputes about the throne, which is one reason of the last exodus of Ewe.

how does one begin to examine the act of appropriation within contemporary culture? with Beyonce of course!

as part of Zac Whittenburg’s engaging article discussing Lucky Plush Production’s recent revival of Punk Yankees, i get to converse with him surrounding the subject matter of appropriation…and Beyonce. below is an excerpt from his blog article Luck Plush Productions: Punk Yankee/conversation  & the dialogue… 

{Julia}Rhoads  and her collaborators set boundaries for this work of investigainment. In a joking exchange toward the beginning, Goldman and Meghann Wilkinson discuss whether or not to broach the subject of appropriation by whites of movement that originated in non-white cultural contexts. Black choreographers Pearl Primus and Alvin Ailey are mentioned but it’s explicitly decided, onstage, that Punk Yankees won’t go any further into all that. This despite the fact that Beyoncé’s appropriation of choreography by Bob Fosse and Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker — both white — is the most centrally positioned pop-culture reference in the work, as well as its point of entry.

It’s a discomfiting moment in a well-crafted, funny and smart work of dance-theater. That Lucky Plush began this conversation in 2009, continued it in subsequent works and revisited it with this revival of Punk Yankees shows dedication to the subject. Declination of its more political and racially charged proposals might not annul the piece’s viability. But that probably depends on your point of view.

To help me hash all this out, I enlisted artist Baraka de Soleil. The founder of D UNDERBELLY, a fluid network of independent artists of color, recently returned to his native Chicago following more than two decades developing movement, music and performance in Brooklyn and Minneapolis. We attended Punk Yankees together and debriefed afterward on Google Chat; what follows is a partial transcript of our conversation.

Zachary Whittenburg: So, about the show: We talked afterward about how one creates a performance that includes some sort of survey of, or reference to, history. And where the “lines are drawn” — how far one decides to take the inquiry. How do you feel Punk Yankees approached this challenge?
Baraka de Soleil:  Challenge: I think that is the key word. I feel that, in some ways, the “history” that was chosen to be represented was not challenging. Understandably, this chosen history was subjective, was a creative exploration and a personal take, in some regards.

Right. It’s not, in the end, a textbook or a history lesson — it’s a piece of choreography, the work of artists. Does that, in your opinion, let them “off the hook”? Why or why not?
I don’t think it lets one off the hook, because the creative choice was to address history — the history of appropriation. Punk Yankees is a representation to its witnesses of what may be considered valid, affirmed; which histories we should uphold…

Creative City: a posting of an online article and the summary of findings regarding Chicago’s cultural plan for 2012 development

Here are two recent postings regarding the development of Chicago’s cultural plan for 2012.  One is by visual artist, arts educator & project manager Meg Peterson, whom i have been in thoughtful and engaging discussions aligned with the evolution of the plan. The other comes from lead consultant firm for Dept of Cultural Affairs  Special Events,  Lord Cultural Resources, whom have come up with a summary of findings based upon extensive research and data culled from conversations with Chicago’s diverse population.

Meg Peterson’s article Creative City: Chicago’s Plan For Encouraging Cultural Participation(from  This Big City ):

“Chicago, a diverse and vibrant city located in the mid-western region of the United States, has a rich history of culture and creativity. Though Chicago is home to many artists and it has many influential cultural icons such as the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago artists often have difficulty making a living wage. Artists, once they reach a certain caliber of recognition or ambition, migrate to more culturally known cities of New York, or L.A., even to international cities like London or Paris. Despite Chicago’s cultural icons, it has a hard time retaining artists, quite possibly because it does not have the same opportunities for artists or does not have the reputation on a global scale of its counterparts.

Most of Chicago’s wealth is concentrated on the north side of the city, which is evident even by assessing the route of Chicago’s public rail line, the “L”, who’s access is highly concentrated towards the north side of the city. While the city is extremely diverse, with almost equal thirds of black, white and Latino populations, the city is notoriously segregated. This segregation leads to a huge disparity of access and even awareness to cultural opportunities, often making it quite difficult for someone living in a south side neighborhood to attend an event on the north side and vice versa, granted they even know about it at all. Arts education in schools and community centers is also affected greatly by this segregation, with intense difference from school to school. Many schools have cut arts programming all together.

The Chicago Cultural Plan

The Chicago Cultural Plan aims to tackle many of these issues, building upon the ideals of the initial Chicago Cultural Plan, which began in 1986, in its grassroots structure and large amount of involvement from the community to make a Plan which does in fact reflect and serve the needs of its citizens. Meetings were held during the winter and spring of 2012 in community centers, art centers, heritage sites, universities, park districts and schools in areas accessible to all Chicagoans, regardless of geography or the pre-existence of cultural resources. After hearing from its citizens through about 30 community meetings throughout the city, the city’s government will then by compile its Plan of action, a living document that will attempt to find practical solutions through the broad augmentation of culture to address the needs expressed by communities across the city.  The underlying understanding behind the plan is that by improving cultural capital in the city, it will also improve the local economies and increase a sense of community and wellbeing, thereby decreasing crime, joblessness and many other larger issues facing the city’s residents.

Each meeting outlined and built upon these six initiatives:

  1. Increase cultural participation by increasing accessibility.
  2. K-12 arts education.
  3. Cross-pollinate culture across the city.
  4. Strengthen the capacity within the cultural sector.
  5. Ensure vibrant cultural spaces for cultural organizations, groups, artists, and neighborhoods.
  6. Attract and retain artists through a priority on sustainability.

What does this mean for Chicago?

Despite the optimism of many of Chicagoans, the questions remain on many people’s minds- how will the city actually implement the Plan? Will the Plan directly relate to Chicago’s communities or simply improve the city’s image and put even more money into areas that appeal to tourists and outsiders, without providing improvements to neighborhoods across the city?  The answer to these questions is complex and will take ample time to address, though it is evident that there needs to be put in place a structure beyond the top down approach of implementing the Plan directly from the city government.

Community leaders, artists and activists across the city are pushing towards the creation of an intermediary force, or community cultural liaison of sorts, who will connect the initiatives and tools in the Plan with the communities themselves. These liaisons will be working on the ground level in each community to make sure that the Plan is being implemented in a way that is appropriate to each place.  Each liaison is proposed to work within one neighborhood or small group of neighborhoods in the city. The broader context for the success, in relation to many other successful plans is not to necessarily bring in outside resources to each neighborhood but to find creative ways to highlight the rich cultural resources already present in each community, through innovative concepts like cultural mapping.  This view assumes a broad definition of culture, beyond the arts, to encompass the things that describe the daily lives of people in each place.

Now that the initial community meetings have been held, the city has amassed a pool of data about how the above initiatives can be put into action.  The city will be releasing a draft of the Chicago Cultural Plan in early summer of 2012, followed by four ‘ground-truthing’ meetings which aim to get more feedback from Chicago’s people in order to fine-tune the Plan to greater accommodate the needs of the city.  The Plan is set for release in the fall of 2012.

Follow the plan here, give your feedback, and stay tuned.”

Images courtesy of moaksey and anarchosyn on flickr



Dept of Cultural Affairs & Special Events/Lord Cultural Resources Summary of Findings from 2012 Public Engagement(with other acknowledged consultants):

“What would it be like to have not only
color vision but culture vision, the ability
to see the multiple worlds of others?”
– Mary Catherine Bateson,
Cultural Anthropologist

Cultural planning in the City of Chicago goes back over 40 years, to the
first effort, in 1966, by the Mayor’s Committee for Cultural and Economic
Development to create a composite voice for the direction of culture in the
city. A second planning effort was completed two decades later under the
administration of Mayor Harold Washington. That plan set the stage for
the direction of growth of the city’s cultural resources and resulted in many
downtown and loop cultural developments; including the redevelopment
of Randolph Street as the Theater District; renovation of Navy Pier; and the
creation of the Chicago Cultural Center as a center for visual and performing
experiences in the city.

Chicago – and the world – has changed significantly in the quarter century
since the 1986 plan was written and even since its update in 1995. In one of
his first acts as Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel directed the Department of
Cultural Affairs and Special Events to revisit the Chicago Cultural Plan. Through a competitive process, the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) led by Commissioner Michelle T. Boone, selected an integrated local and global team headed by the international consulting firm Lord Cultural Resources, with partners Research Explorers, Inc; Dickerson Global Advisors; cultural policy expert Nick Rabkin; and graphic communications firm Weetu, to guide the planning effort. The city also created a 32-member Advisory Committee of local arts, government and community members, specifically for the cultural plan. With this team in place, in February, the Chicago Cultural Plan 2012 was launched to identify opportunities for arts and cultural growth for the city.

The Planning Process
There are four legs on which this cultural plan stands: public engagement,
a broad and deep wealth of up-to-date research, an emphasis on creativity
and innovation, and, finally, buy-in from the citizens of Chicago, government
and the business community. The planning process is unfolding in three phases,
with Phase 1: planning, research, and development, and Phase 2: outreach,
interviews, and information collection, occurring concurrently. The final phase, 3: information compilation and report generation will utilize all of the research and data gathering, along with insight from those inside and outside of city to make recommendations and an implementation plan to move the Cultural Plan forward.

To reach the broadest spectrum of participants, potential funders, and citizens at large, the planning team worked with partners from the Chicago Department of Housing and Economic Development and the Chicago Community Trust to create resource maps for the town hall meetings and the neighborhood cultural conversations.

Technology has reshaped the way many citizens engage with culture and
participate in the arts; a National Endowment for the Arts finding shows that
people who participate in the arts through electronic media are nearly three
times as likely to attend live arts events as non-media participants. So to further the conversation on Chicago’s cultural future, and to allow an even greater voice for citizens, the team launched an interactive website, where Chicagoans were asked to submit ideas and participate in the discussion.

The public phase of the 2012 Chicago Cultural Plan kicked off in February 2012 with a series of large public meetings in four locations throughout the city within a short public transit, walk, and car ride from over 90% of Chicago citizens. Those locations were; Columbia College’s Stage Two in central Chicago, Nicholas Senn High School on the North side, DuSable Museum of African American History on the South side, National Museum of Mexican Art on the West side.
This report explains what happened at the public meetings, what the public said, how the information was captured and how it will be used moving forward.

The Big Picture: Town Hall Meetings

Town Halls
Columbia College 315
Nicholas Senn High School 161
DuSable Museum of African American History 158
National Museum of Mexican Art 201

The town hall meeting discussions were as spirited as the locations in which
they were held. In breakout groups, participants were asked about their view
of cultural Chicago, and how we get from here to there. At the conclusion of
the meeting, each group was given three minutes to report back the highlights of their conversations. Reportbacks from all the groups allowed them to hear each other’s challenges, priorities, and best practices in sharing their vision for Chicago and its neighborhoods. Participants were also given the opportunity to ask questions of city officials and the consulting team.
• Increase cultural participation by increasing accessibility. Throughout
the city, Chicagoans are looking for greater access to culture. This point
addresses many sectors: safety, zoning and policy, physical distribution, and,
in some areas far south and west, transportation.
• Secure K-12 arts education. At every town hall meeting, arts education was
a major topic. Conversation often became more intense when discussing
the desire to provide arts education opportunities for school-age children.
These include arts in schools of all types -public, charter, private, etc. – as
well as opportunities outside of school, such as after school and during the
summer, weekend, and breaks.
• Downtown and beyond – cross-pollinate culture citywide.  

Chicago culture is not only downtown or in the loop. Culture thrives throughout the city, and participants came equipped with examples of culture from their communities – we even had poetic and dance performances at some of the meetings.

• Strengthen capacity within cultural sector. Participants think the cultural
sector in the city is strong when it comes to offering quality cultural
experiences; however, the sector is weak in infrastructure development
– training, resource development, assistance in navigating public and
governmental agencies.
• Ensure vibrant cultural space for artists, cultural groups, and
neighborhoods.  Chicagoans resoundingly requested the exploration of all types of places for culture.

• Attract and retain artists through priority on sustainability. Chicago’s
“artist drain” was acknowledged, with many people pointing out that the
universities and colleges in Chicago train some of the greatest cultural
practitioners, but these practitioners then leave for the East and West
Coasts, where they can make a living as artists.

Digging Deeper: Neighborhood Cultural Conversations


“If we could provide people with more
information on why where they live is special,
people would have more pride in their city and
take better care of their neighborhoods.”
– Caroline Stevens,
Town Hall participant


The vitality and diversity of Chicago’s neighborhoods
are one of its greatest assets and what differentiates it
from other cities. Chicago residents were engaged in 21
neighborhood meetings in 19 locations between the end of
February and beginning of April 2012. Neighborhood cultural
conversations were designed to use topics that dominated
town hall meetings to inspire residents to think critically
about their own neighborhood, and allow them to articulate
the potential for their community’s cultural vitality.
During the conversations, participants were encouraged to
celebrate their neighborhood, vote on the top three town
hall issues that resonated most with their personal and or
community desires. This followed facilitated discussions of
the top 2 to 3 themes where participants graded the success
or failures of their neighborhoods in addressing the issue as
well as suggested and prioritized solutions.

Of the six themes, “Secure K-12 art education” and “ensure
vibrant cultural spaces” consistently were the top themes
most pertinent to their neighborhoods. “Increase cultural
participation by increasing accessibility,” “cross-pollinate
culture citywide,” and “attract and retain artist through
priority on sustainability” were nearly tied in the second tier
but varied by conversation depending on the neighborhood
and audience. “Strengthen capacity within the cultural
sector” received the least amount of votes of the six themes.
To systematically evaluate the information gained through
the conversations, the team built a series of charts, like the
one below, summarizing the public input on the three key
questions by region and topic.

Four themes consistently surfaced in terms of understanding
residents’ desires to ensure Chicago’s future cultural vitality.
The themes are:

• Empower neighborhoods to plan and execute cultural initiatives.
Residents know their community and feel that they are best able to assess
and articulate their needs. In many cases, attendees were looking to these
conversations and the city to provide them with direction for improving their
own community. Many thought that the city could facilitate the initiative
by providing the steps, access, and tools to create cultural opportunities –
space, education, and experiences – by leveraging their existing assets and
identifying opportunities that can be realized in the future.
• Coordinate and centralize cultural communication. Access to information
and lack of communication between different parts of the city or sectors of
the community were often cited as reasons for neighborhood segregation,
ethnic polarity, and lack of exposure to culture. Many neighborhood
priorities focused on improved communication.
• Optimize existing resources citywide. The Chicago Park District is the
largest municipal park manager in the nation and owner of more than 8,100
acres of green space, 580 parks and 260 field houses. Nearly every Chicago
neighborhood has a park and field house. Additionally, Chicago is one of the
leading municipal library systems with more than 75 locations throughout
Chicago. In the minds of many participants these two existing institutions
can be the foundation for facilities on which the city can “build” since most
neighborhoods have both a library and park that are maintained and staffed.
Participants felt that this foundation exists in both public and privately held
facilities, green spaces, rooftops, lots and any number of potential cultural
• Distribute citywide resources equitably.  As groups focused on the needs of their communities, residents quickly seized on the opportunity to provide solutions for the issues of real and perceived inequalities in cultural opportunities – be they economic or geographic. First, the distribution of 

more and equitable arts education was a main theme at every conversation.
Many residents felt that the arts education opportunities currently on offer
for the majority of school-age children was inadequate and would benefit
from augmentation. Many attendees pointed out that creativity sparked by
arts education is crucial in innovation development.


Next Steps

This report represents the conclusion of the initial public engagement.
Following the approval of this report, the team will share the findings and
combine the results of the public engagement with the research, creativity and innovation studies, input from city and sector leaders, to identify and prioritize opportunities and needs. Finally a draft Cultural Plan will be distributed in late Summer.
The Chicago Cultural Plan 2012 plan is an invitation to explore and
shape Chicago’s cultural future so participants are encouraged to stay
connected to both the process – by continuing to dialogue online at
http://www.chicagoculturalplan2012.com and to each other by seeking opportunities for collaborations and partnerships with new contacts made through the public engagement process.

a preview/interview of evolving thoughts & ideas for the 2012 Chicago Cultural Plan

Perspectives on the Cultural Plan:  Baraka de Soleil

Interviewer: Amina Dickerson


What is your title?

   Creative Practitioner

What is your involvement or role with the Cultural Plan?

Attended the Town Hall Meetings, neighborhood cultural conversations and often invited by the leaders of the NCC’s[Neighborhood Cultural Conversations] to be a facilitator for breakout sessions during these meetings. a self-appointed grass roots cultural worker of this plan, seeking to be present at the table whenever possible.

What meetings have you attended?

Attended ALL NCCs as well as the discipline meetings organized for the visual arts, dance (audience architects), and the session for interdisciplinary artists    (hosted by Co-prosperity Sphere)

What most intrigued or confounded you about the design of the cultural plan process ?

Most intriguing- and most valuable, is witnessing different neighborhoods engage in conversation with each other, explore potential for collaborations, people identifying other artists and resources in their community, networking. (for me) crossing-over into various communal spaces[neighborhoods] i didn’t get to go as a child ( i grew up in Chicago but just relocated after a 20 year hiatus) where i get  to experience multiple conversations on how culture impacts people’s lives.

What are your greatest hopes for the outcomes of the cultural plan?  (laughter) ultimately to be able to see this plan unfold in ways which foster deep rooted intersections of art, culture and ‘cultural’ conversations; inviting communities to experience each other beyond the boundaries of Chicago’s historically racially divided neighborhoods.

I also want to continue to advocate for everyone being at the table, everyone’s voices to be heard.  that’s why I  formed an ad hoc Facebook group Chi-CAGO [Chicago-Cultural Ad Hocracy Group Organizing] to keep people informed.

A vision — and what I want to establish is the new position of “creative liaison” (and I mentioned it during some of the cultural conversations).  What came out of the amazing conversations from the neighborhood meetings and what LORD consultants have inspired–  is a mechanism to continue & cultivate the rich fertile conversations unique to each neighborhood; as a way to move things forward.  How do these neighborhoods engage culture, creative placemaking, art as part of everyday lives?  How do we continue to hear  what people want & be held accountable to upholding their thoughts & ideas? (By establishing) creative [cultural] liaisons at the grassroots level, (they can be) actively involved in being a voice for the neighborhood, keeping the conversations going, providing feedback to the City on the continued implementation of the Cultural Plan.  This creates a living, fluid document, and plan.

What I’ve heard at many NCCs but also at artist based meetings–  is that we [all] must  activate this plan, continue to be aligned with the evolution of the plan. We all have a responsibility for making the plan come alive.  Artists have been at the forefront of neighborhood revitalization and should be at the forefront of this conversation, at the center of the neighborhood creative think tank in looking at culture.  Liaisons interfacing with neighborhoods in a way that is meaningful, proactive and invested…we must continue to listen to voices of the neighborhood. These cultural workers {cultural liaisons} would be the active ears to those voices & ideas…

Which, if any, of the six themes that have emerged most resonates with you?

I feel, and this is kind of political,  the role of the creative liaison will embody all six and puts artists at the forefront.  So– for example, how do we attract and retain artists?  The liaison role would look at how to position artists in the center of the conversations and will lead us to how to retain these artists, because they will be at the center.  We got a strong sense of what these neighborhoods want.  With the appointment of, say, 25 liaisons, it would allows for multiple neighborhoods to  converge and will create by definition create cross-pollination.  Such a role can help forge the conversations about important concerns of neighborhoods, like arts education, access and how to build that vitality within the neighborhoods.

*since this interview (which will  soon be on the Chicago cultural plan 2012’s website) i want to acknowledge initial key conversations with artists/cultural workers/planners – Mankwe Ndosi, Maritza Bautista & especially Meg Peterson who, while abroad, is significantly contributing to the vision & development of this cultural liaison role.  the conversation on the plan and this role continues with more artists, community members and all who are invested in the vision of  an innovative, fluid & grassroots-based cultural blueprint  for Chicago.

developing schema for community cultural liaison role – designed & envisioned by Meg Peterson, in conversation with Baraka de Soleil

in search of new house…excavating ambient messages

morning dust kicks up

& i am found

excavating the soul of house inspired by the search for new house.

spirit builds it.
land encompasses it.
ambiance surrounds….

unfolding in 3


#1 “Maboko Na Ndouzou .”

(deep house Boddhi Satva Mix)

#2 “your talisman awaits within this pulse.”

(Yoruba Boddhi Satva mix)

#3 “Be like Warriors of Africa mixed with lemon, herbs, spit & sweat.”

(multi ancestral/peeps Boddhi Satva mix)


Maboko Na Ndouzou

from an open panel conversation on cultural divides

this is from an article written about a panel i recently moderated at Chicago Cultural Center; looking at exploring the difficult conversation of culture as it relates to dance, art-making and the Chicago neighborhood mentality….

Salon NOTEBOOK: Difficult Conversations: Cultural Divides

by Zachary Whittenburg

On April 16 at the Chicago Cultural Center, prompted by interdisciplinary artist Baraka de Soleil, four panelists and their audience kicked off a discussion about culture by attempting to lasso that rampant word with other words.

Hema Rajagopalan, artistic director of Natya Dance Theatre, identified culture’s three main ingredients in her view — beliefs, practices and values — but swiftly added that they are “always going to be influenced by the surrounding environment. It’s important that we understand that [culture] transforms and evolves.”

Phil Reynolds, executive director of the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, gave his “working definition” of culture: “A set of belief systems, intellectual expression, artistic output and social practices that, combined, define a society or a subset of a society.”

Although it has other connotations, too, he said. “You hear, ‘I came from a cultured family.’ What does that mean? Good breeding? Refinement?”

Cescily Washington, founder and president of CW Arts Consulting, called culture “a collective palette.” De Soleil, the panel’s moderator, called it “the visible and invisible ties that bind.”

“It’s who you know, what you know and how you know it,” said attendee Eboni Senai Hawkins, producing artistic director at see. think. dance. “I’d maybe add to that,” offered Reynolds, “how you express what you know.” Choreographer Madeleine Reber replied further that culture “is what you don’t know you know.”

“Using it as a singular makes me put my head against the wall,” said Barbara Koenen, director of artists’ resources at Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. “It always has to be plural. It’s malleable. It’s multiple. Everyone has their own.”

* * *

Allow me at this point to pose some questions to you, NOTEBOOK reader. When away from a context in which you feel comfortable or fluent, do you listen to and seek to understand and absorb its foreign qualities? Or do you signal outwardly what you want strangers to know about your own identity?

Does the answer depend on how you feel inside each particular unfamiliar?

“Aesthetics and perception” were two words de Soleil chose to express his understanding of culture; I’ll subdivide the latter, as perceptions can be grounded in lived experience or based on association, assumption and reputation.

What are the sources of your assumptions? Do you know what they are, and are they born in conscious choice, inheritance or reflex?

Two success stories of cultural exchange are music and food. (Masgouf tastes the same to tongues of all mothers; ndbombolo sounds the same to ears of all colors.) Both are experienced in the body, albeit with no guarantee of personal interaction with their producers.

So what happens when there is no non-human intermediary such as an entrée on a dish or an mp3 file in a music player? When the question is not, “How do I feel about masgouf?” but “How do I feel about Iraqi people?” or, rather, “How do I feel about this Iraqi person, who has a face and a name?” Sometimes, though not always, the answer is no exchange.

That’s a major challenge for live dance. Not only isn’t it transmitted through an intermediary — it travels directly from performer to viewer’s eye — a dance doesn’t always utilize or adhere to known vocabularies, shared or otherwise.

What’s left, then? Bodies moving in shared space, being observed by other bodies, period. As a location of potential cultural exchange, the odds are not in its favor but, for the same reasons, the fidelity dance offers as a conduit for empathy is hard to beat.

* * *

Rajagopalan came to the United States from India in 1974. She was in her mid-twenties. When she first heard the term “melting pot,” she said she remembers thinking, “But I want to see my vegetables! I don’t want it to all become mushy.” Through the Urban Gateways program, she performed in Chicago Public Schools but admitted she often dreaded the experience. “I used to hear remarks [from students] that would really upset me. Not that [Urban Gateways was] paying a whole lot of money. The fact was, I wanted to educate and share and wanted to express that there is another form, [another] aspect, a whole other world out there.”

“The empathetic heart,” she continued, the desire to understand what others experience and can offer, “is what is missing in Chicago. That extension of a hand doesn’t necessarily happen.” (Rajagopalan acknowledged that, at times, the hand withdrawn has been her own. While driving west at night from downtown Chicago on Roosevelt Road instead of the Eisenhower Expressway, she used to pass bars with mostly black clienteles. She recalled reminding herself that she was safe despite her instincts to the contrary.)

Reynolds expressed his satisfaction with progress made toward audience diversification at the Dance Center, although some desired benchmarks remain elusive. “The meter is going to move really slowly,” he acknowledged. “This is complex behavior.”

“It’s still, ‘Go for your color,’ ” observed de Soleil about attendance at culturally specific performances. “Black audience for black dance. Latino audience for Latino dance. Queer audience for queer dance.” From the panel’s audience, Natya program coordinator Bill Jordan concurred. “Crossing a cultural divide is one of the hardest things to do, beyond a trivial level. It takes a lot of work.”

In addition to rifts opened by racial difference, there are intangible barriers constructed by economic inequality and loyalty to faith. “Sometimes ‘difference’ is as clear as ticket price and ‘How do I get there?’ ” de Soleil observed plainly. “Twenty-five [dollars] is affordable? Not if you can’t afford it. ‘You want me to come downtown? But I need to eat.’ ”

While there are many ways to expose oneself to a broad spectrum of culture for free, some pan- and cross-cultural experiences charge admission at high prices. Once inside a “zone of privilege,” what cultures are and aren’t represented? Rajagopalan asked whether exchange is a component of presenting organizations’ philosophies, beyond or independent of their commercial needs and wants as institutions. Attendee Abra Johnson of Honey Pot Performance made a few basic requests of the field: “Experience each other’s performance culture. Learn each other’s aesthetics. Get to know non-central spaces and organizations. Think about bartering as a source of funding.”

Rajagopalan responded by describing how fulfilling it’s been for her to learn to express herself in non-native languages, saying she’s “still a student” of other dance forms. She identified how relocating overseas increased her capacities as a dance artist. Larger stages were more accessible in the U.S. than they were in India and her movement grew to fill this freshly available space.

Washington asserted the importance of providing youth the same sense of latency, by way of arts education and outreach. Chicago students “have a huge opportunity,” she said, but wondered if they were aware of their own potential. Later, she listed truths she wants to ensure the city’s children hear.

“Yes, you have a voice. Yes, Chicago is yours. Yes, you belong here.” She paused for a moment, then said, “Culture is shapeable. It’s shapeable.”

Re-Frame: Revisited. december 2011

Video representing artists from  D UNDERBELLY ‘s communal project, Re-Frame: A Gathering.  This December 2011 showing  was at Links Hall & Featured artist participants:

Ching-In Chen 

Rebecca kling

Iman Crutcher

with Re-Frame artists: Victoria Martinez,  Eboni Senai Hawkins, Isaac Fosl Van-Wyke, Anansi Knowbody, Michael Johnson and co-facilitator Awilda Rodriguez Lora.

directed, curated & co-facilitated by Baraka de Soleil.


D UNDERBELLY’s Re-Frame: The Progress of Works featuring Sojourner Wright

Re-Frame: The Progress of Works
Friday, April 13th at 7:00pm
An evening of innovation at Rumble Arts Center, in association with Insight Arts and  D UNDERBELLY
A distinctive evening reflecting the progress of artist Sojourner Wright  from Re-Frame: A Gathering – an innovative project of D UNDERBELLY focused on creative process and community building. This past winter,  a community of  artists, curators and facilitators from all over Chicago, gathered for 7 weeks; re-framing, through rigorous experimentation & investigation of critical feedback, the way they think about process, collaboration and the development of performance works. Re-Frame: The Progress of Works shows us how  artists have continued to explore creative process through the progress of new work, further examination of their body of work or experimentation with an existing work.
Come for the opportunity to witness intriguing work, home cooked food and engaging discussions.
a developing evening-length solo performance
featuring Sojourner Wright, writer & performer
directorial consultant: Baraka de Soleil
In contrast to a world of repressed emotions, missed psychic connections & voids filled with over consumption, Sojourner cultivates an organic space of healing, right in her home’s center – the kitchen. Passages from Maya Tiwari’s Book Aryuveda: A life of Balance become the catalyst for transformation and healing during this interactive evening further infused by sprinklings of poetic narrative & movement vignettes fueled by the transformative powers of the 5 elements (fire, water, air, earth, space).  There will be collective baking, snacking and good ‘ole fashioned talking’ around the kitchen table. Not to mention a smokin’ hot dance party in the middle of it all. You will leave ‘I Am Sadhana’ with a new experience of what it means to throw down in the kitchen.
Sojourner Zenobia Wright is a graduate of the School at Steppenwolf class of ’09. She has also trained with Chicago’s Piven Theater and Black Box Studio. She is a graduate of Naropa Universities BFA in Interdisciplinary Performance. At Naropa she found ways in which to work with her mind, emotions, body and spirit in order to fully become a vessel for her fullest creative self. Sojourner began creating her own work in the fall of ’08 through Soul Journey Projects. “What is meaningful to me in the creative process is distilling the purest truth and sharing it with articulated presence…deep listening and witnessing each other in our stories as well as in the revelations behind those stories. “
*The Kitchen Project : I am Sadhana is supported by D UNDERBELLY as part of the Re-Frame project, in association with Insight Arts.
$5 suggested donation*
Rumble Arts Center
3413 W North Avenue
Rumble Arts Center’s first floor gallery is an accessible space

proceeds from this showing will support the A.I.R./R.I.A (Artist in Residence/Rumble & Insight Arts) pilot project.

note to the sista that moves me beyond consciousness towards proactivity

thank you for your rousing words…u are right. we need to be outraged by all black deaths. black on black truly. i have relocated to chicago from new york recently and been in those areas of recent killings. films like The Interrupters reminded me that i need to tune into these neighborhoods and look at what i can do a black male, active being…
u have inspired me beyond simply being conscious to proactivity (by creative means) in order to address this alarming homicide statistic. it brings to mind a performance ritual created in 1996 in minneapolis with a black male collective Sirius B entitled Monday Morning Body Count. i believe it’s time to remount, reconstruct or build anew a ritual of awakening that permeates these ‘death zones” in chicago. the current toll of 100 homicides (as of March 25th, 2012) in which i count 70 black men so far propels me into concretizing this performative plan of action.  will keep u informed on what comes out of this. 
best to you

Chicago Cultural Plan 1986 ….begin with the past, discern what is useful in the present, build a future cultural plan that celebrates all of what we desire…

chicago is developing a cultural plan in 2012.  last cultural plan was developed circa 1986 –

– it would be great to have a discourse/meeting on this original plan and how it could potentially inform the upcoming plan

here is a link to 1986 cultural plan in pdf – http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/dca/general/ChicagoCulturalPlan.pdf

below is language  from 1986 plan:



Over 150 years, Chicago has evolved from a small prairie city to a dynamic cultural center of
international status. Therefore, it is fitting that we celebrate Chicago’s Sesquicentennial by
presenting the city with its first comprehensive, cohesive strategy for nurturing our artistic
and cultural resources.
Chicago is alive with culture. Every corner of the city is literally bursting with cultural
and artistic activity – with neighborhood dance troupes and community theater, jazz and
blues musicians and symphony orchestras, sculptors, painters and writers – all contributing
to the great excitement and ethnic diversity that makes Chicago so remarkable.
But culture is a precious resource that requires careful attention. I t is an integral part of
Chicago’s spirit and an underpinning of Chicago’s economic well-being. Yet this city has
never before developed a long-range, coordinated plan for culture and the arts. Now, thanks
to the work of so many dedicated Chicagoans, we have one.
f commend the diligence and vision of those who pursued the development of the
plan, in particular Commissioner Fred Fine, Advisory Board Chair Jessie Woods, Planning
Committee Chair Robert Hutchins and Director of the Plan Michael C. Dorl.
f especially salute the thousands of Chicagoans and hundreds of organizations that
contributed their time and ideas to the development of this plan.
With the Chicago Cultural Plan, we pay tribute to the cultural greatness of Chicago
and pledge to enhance and showcase that greatness for generations to come.
Harold Washington

The individual artist is at the foundation of our cultural heritage. The ability of artists
to pursue the arts as a career and earn a living wage is basic to the growth and stability of our cultural diversity.

Thousands of cultural organizations and community organizations with cultural com­
ponents throughout the city have an enormous impact on the lives of our citizens.

Our large cultural institutions are recognized around the world for excellence. They
enrich the lives of our citizens, draw tourists, and contribute to the city’s economy. Their continued support is essential to the health of the city. Cultivation of audiences and an emphasis on arts appreciation is necessary to continuing cultural development.

Cultural activities should be accessible to the disabled, the elderly and low income
people, both as audience and participants.

Cultural vitality is important to our economy and community development. The cultural sector employs thousands; cultural organizations bring identity to downtown and the neighborhoods; and our cultural diversity helps business maintain a quality workforce that wants to live in Chicago.

The public and private sectors have a responsibility to cultivate the development of the city’s cultural life.

Chicago’s culture is a collage of many cultures that sometimes stand separately, sometimes merge with each other. The heritage of Chicago’s European Ethnic groups, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans and others make rich contributions to our cultural life.

City resources available for cultural support should be distributed on a fair and equitable basis, both among diverse cultures and between citywide and neighborhood-based cultural institutions.

Excellence in the arts is a continuing objective that underlies the entire Chicago Cultural Plan.

Culture comprises our common heritage and avenues of expression – the visual arts
and crafts, humanities, anthropology, science and technology, performing arts, architecture and other means of expression – which people use to communicate their fundamental character and aspirations. Culture and the arts are essential to the quality of life. They help identify our place in the world and provide opportunities for creative expression. With this plan, Chicago states its commitment to providing citizens with these opportunities.

The Chicago Cultural Plan is a comprehensive strategy for nourishing and cultivating culture in our city. It proposes to chart a new course by combining our many fine artistic and educational resources into a single voice that says “Culture matlers.” The Chicago Cultural Plan is without precedent in its scope and the grassroots process by which it was crafted. It took shape from the recommendations and observations of thousands of Chicago citizens as well as hundreds of cultural, civic and community groups. It goes to the heart of the rationale for establishing the Department of Cultural Affairs, which
grew out of a recommendation by Mayor Washington’s 1983 Transition Team Report. From the outset, our tenets were:
Culture and the arts are vital to the quality of our lives and should be so recognized in all aspects of municipal planning.
Cultural resources must be accessible and fairly distributed to all to ensure the continued and historically vital contributions of all segments of our diverse culture. Culture is important to our economy by employing thousands of people, attracting new businesses, revitalizing neighborhoods and drawing hundreds of thousands of tourists to the city each year.

The Cultural Plan embraces these principles in a manner that celebrates the cultural
diversity of the city.
The plan was one of the first projects undertaken by the new Department of Cultural
Affairs. Under the direction of Michael C. Dorl, we began work in earnest after the City Council’s unanimous approval of a resolution presented by Mayor Harold Washington in April 1985, to accept a two-year funding grant from the Chicago Community Trust for development of a plan.
This plan is not a finished document. In our rapidly changing urban environment, it
must be viewed as a thoughtful beginning … a dynamic plan that will continue to respond to fluctuating circumstances and ongoing funding requirements.
One very important task has already been achieved by the Plan … and that is tile very process. It has had a leavening effect on much of the cultural community. It has awakened some, reinvigorated others, and met head-on the doubts and skepticism from those who believe that too often their concerns are overlooked or just get lip service. Perhaps most importantly, our meetings were attended not only by artists and arts administrators but also by many who for the first time talked about what art and culture could do for their community and their personal lives.

This summary of the plan will be supplemented with ongoing policy papers and expanded treatment of many concerns barely touched upon here. A major supplementary document will be available May I. 1987.

Our city owes a debt of gratitude to Robert A. Hutchins, who chaired the Planning Committee, appointed from among the members of the Advisory Board by our esteemed Chair, Jessie A. Woods. In my long history, 1have never experienced such commitment and wise generalship. And no project director has given of himself more than Mike Dorf and his staff in the difficult task of seeking a true synthesis of the unprecedented democratic process pursued here. I must also salute and thank Nick Rabkin, Deputy Commissioner of Cultural Affairs; Madeline Rabb, Director of the Chicago Office of Fine Arts; Lois Weisberg, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Special Events; and Kathryn Darrell, Director of the Office of Film and Entertainment Industries, for their ongoing, invaluable contributions.
Let us now join forces to transform this Plan into a liVing realization of OUf finest cultural aspirations.

Fred Fine
Departlllent ofC”lt”ml Affairs

We met in church basements in West Town and bank boardrooms in Albany Park. In union halls in South Chicago and park fieldhouses in Austin. In libraries, movie houses, schools … dance studios, community centers, theaters} museums … and in every other place where people could come together. And they came. They came to South Shore in the middle of a blizzard and to Beverly in the midst of a summer thunderstorm. To Pilsen on a dark Wednes­day night and to Lincoln Square on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Parents came, and kids came, and businessmen, and aldermen, and teachers, and librarians, and historians, and artists and artisans of every kind. They told us of ways to use the arts in the everyday life of the city. They told us of the joy the arts bring to the soul. We realized again and again the central role the arts play in our life in Chicago and in Chicago’s role and image in the world at large. In all, thousands of Chicagoans participated in setting forth a vision for the cultural future of Chicago. They are the authors of the Chicago Cultural Plan.

Michael C. Dorf
Chicago Cultural Plan

The Chicago Cultural Plan has been developed over the past two years through an intensive citywide effort to analyze the city’s cultural needs and opportunities and to develop recom­mendations for action. All this work will have been in vain unless there is a concerted effort to turn this plan into action.
Some of the recommendations will require primarily the interest and efforts of city
government and cultural organizations, while other recommendations will require additional funding.
A variety of players will carry out these recommendations: city government agencies, political leaders, community groups, cultural institutions, individual artists, private busi­nesses, foundations, concerned citizens and others.

Tlie overall responsibility for this mission, liowever, rests witH the Department of Cultural Affairs. The Advisory Board to the Department of Cultural Affairs is charged with overseeing the Department’s implementation of the plan and setting future goals. There will be an annual report to update the city on the progress of the Chicago Cultural Plan.


Department of Cultural Affairs

The Department of Cultural Affairs is the principal advocate and spokesperson in city government for cultural development and funding. As the umbrella agency for the Chicago Office of Fine Arts, the Mayor’s Office of Special Events and the Office of Film and Entertain­ment Industries, it can be instrumental in coordinating and advocating cultural concerns.
However, limitations in its resources and the current scope of its responsibilities restrict the Department’s ability to mediate cultural concerns effectively. Such coordination could stream­line and strengthen the impact of city support for cultural activities.

Strengthen the ability of the Department of Cultural Affairs to streamline city cultural
programming among the various agencies and to act as an advocate for cultural concerns in such areas as codes, transportation, planning and education. C>= <C

Confirm the role of the Department of Cultural Affairs in the subcabinets of Development and Community Services.

Encourage closer cooperation between the Department, the Illinois Arts Council and
the Illinois Humanities Council.

Increase the staff and resources of the Department, including the Chicago Office of
Fine Arts, the Mayor’s Office of Special Events and the Office of Film and Entertainment Industries, enabling them to administer more effectively services such as technical assistance and grants programs.

Expand the Department’s search for joint public-private partnerships, with founda­tions and corporate supporters, for example.


An effective, energetic marketing of Chicago cultural activities can further increase the tremen­dous contribution that culture makes to the city’s economy. The international reputation of Chicago as an arts center is a major factor in attracting conventions and hundreds of thou­sands of tourists. The richness of our cultural activities is an important economic resource to develop. Restaurants, hotels, transportation industries, parking garages and retail businesses all profit from a dynamic and well-marketed “Chicago Culture.”

R E c o M M E N D A T I o N s
Assist and train cultural organizations to develop cooperative promotions to targeted
tourism markets.

Create a task force to encourage and promote cultural tourism. The task force would consist of tourism agencies. such as the Chicago Tourism Council and the Chicago Conven­tion and Visitors Bureau, and other organizations with a strong interest in tourism, such as the Illinois Restaurant Association and the League of Chicago Theaters.

Create and market a “Chicago Card,” an all-purpose admission card that tourists could use at a variety of the city’s attractions.

Support the Chicago Tourism Council’s efforts to offer membership activities and expand its services in order to ensure a secure funding base.

Create an “Office of Cultural Exchange” within the Department of Cultural Affairs to
facilitate national and international cultural tours. Incorporate arts, architectural and humanities exhibits and performances into city­ funded promotional and marketing programs.


Economic Development

Arts and culture are powerful tools for economic development. For example, a study commis­sioned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey stated that the arts and culture have a $5.6 billion annual impact on the economy of the New York City metropolitan area. In addition to the contribution that the arts industry, both commercial and not-for-profit, has on Chicago’s economy, our reputation as an arts center is a large factor in attracting new business. We should more fully explore and promote the economic role of arts and culture in Chicago.

R E c o M M E N D A TI o N s

Prepare an “Economic Impact of Arts Study” for the region as a coordinated city interagency effort to demonstrate the large contribution that culture makes to our economy and to outline areas where that contribution can be increased.

Establish Cultural Enterprise Zones in which commercial and nonprofit cultural organizations have clustered office spaces, rehearsal and performance spaces, retail boutiques and galleries, along with studio and living spaces for individual artists. There would be initial tax incentives and subsidies to attract cultural organizations and private investors. Such zones have been successfully established in Seattle and Buffalo.

Create Cultural Incubator projects, to assist in the establishment and spin-off of cultural and arts businesses.

Maintain and coordinate a cultural development component in Chicago Works To­gether II: Chicago’s development plan.
Explore new tools to maintain and expand Chicago’s share of the feature film and television production industry in cooperation with the Illinois Film Office. These include the feasibility of a major new production soundstage, a revolving film financing fund and tax incentives.

The Park District

Since its founding in 1934, the Chicago Park District has sought to integrate the arts into the daily lives of Chicago residents. In addition to its extensive fieldhouse cultural facilities, the Park District hosts eight of the nation’s most celebrated history, art and science cultural institutions.
While many of the fieldhouse cultural facilities have fallen into disuse and disrepair,
the Chicago Park District has rekindled its desire to be a more active participant in our cultural community. I t has recenlly added the Mexican Fine Arts Center and the South Shore Cultural Center to the roster of outstanding institutions on park land.

R E c o M M E N D A TI o N s
Institute close cooperation between the Department of Cultural Affairs and the Chicago Park District to achieve the objectives of the Cultural Plan.

Make Park District facilities more available to local cultural organizations and artists.
Encourage cooperative programming between the Park District and cultural and arts
service organizations.

Further enhance cooperation between the Park District and the city’s expanding festival programs directed by the Office of Special Events.

Strengthen and expand the financial support of cultural institutions on Park
District property.

Public Art

Public art demonstrates a city’s commihnent to bring beauty to its citizens’ everyday lives. Chicago already has an international reputation for outstanding public art. We will preserve and enlarge that reputation by reaffirming our commitment to commissioning new public art.

R E c o M M E N D A T I o N S

Strengthen the city’s Percent for Art program by mandating that a full one percent of
new construction or redevelopment costs of all public facilities be devoted to acquiring art for those facilities.

To ensure benefits for the performing arts from this program, consider allocating up to fifty percent of the funds to a new trust for public performance facilities.

Extend the Percent for Art program to private development projects with public subsidies or financing.

Shift oversight of the Public Art Program from the Department of Public Works to the Department of Cultural Affairs so it can coordinate public art initiatives in all city departments (such as Department of Aviation, Board of Education, Park District and City Colleges).

Commission public art works for the O’Hare Airport expansion, the Southwest Rapid
Transit route, the new public library, Wright Junior College and other public places over the next five years.

Expand active participation of neighborhood representatives in the selection of public art works, and indude a healthy proportion of Chicago artists in the selections.

Lobby for the restoration of funding for public art in federally-assisted public transpor­tation projects.



Communication About Programs and Resources
The one concern we heard again and again, in meetings held across the city, was the need to increase communication about the programs and resources we already have. Increased communication between the multitude of arts and cultural organizations can help them coordinate scheduling and promotion; alert them to additional resources available; and
perhaps most importantly, allow them to work together to increase their overall impact in the city. In addition, we must increase communication between arts groups and audiences.
Too often the public is unaware of the wealth of available programs in the city. Many mechanisms for reaching broad audiences already exist, such as the branch system of the Chicago Public Library. We can more fully utilize such networks.

R E c o M M E N D A T I o N s
Support development of a citywide calendar of events.

Publish a “Cultural Directory” listing programs, services and funding available from
city government and other public agencies.

Expand the scope and distribution of the Chicago Area “Technical Assistance Hand­
book” to provide a comprehensive directory of resources and services available to artists and arts organizations.

Increase ongoing communication between arts service organizations to expand infor­mation-sharing, scheduling and long-range planning. For example, the Cultural Collabora­tive Network and the Grant Park Cultural and Educational Community already bring groups together to share programming, promotional and collaborative activity.

Encourage radio and television to provide more cultural and public service announce­ments during regular listening and viewing hours.

Promote the works of local film and video makers through the Chicago Public Library system, by distributing their works on cassettes to the branch libraries.

Feature the works of Chicago artists and performers on the two municipal cable television stations, such as on the new “Music Alive” program.

Provide advertising space free of charge to cultural and arts organizations on CTA buses and trains.

Promote tour programs that increase awareness of the arts, culture and architecture.


Public Access to Cultural Programming

Much cultural programming is presented in Chicago without adequate audience support. And, many Chicagoans interested in participating in cultural activities either feel that the programming presented does not reflect their divelSe cultural interests or are unaware of available opportunities. We must bring together these programs and audiences to the mutual benefit of each.

R E c o M M E N D A T I o N S
Expand neighborhood outreach programs by center city institutions, to attract larger
audiences downtown and to bring appropriate exhibits and performances to the com­munities.

Encourage more community content in the programming of center city and major cultural institutions.

Use public access cable television channels to promote cultural activities as another method of attracting a broader audience.

Encourage tlte development of a citywide radio network for arts programming to bring cultural experiences to radio listenelS at home and on the move.
Expand off-peak public transportation services on days when there are significant cultural activities or to sites where cultural events are occurring.

Community Arts Councils and Cultural Planning

Cultural planning in communities is sporadic. Agroup will assemble to organize an event and then disappear. And all too often, one group will offer a program that others in the community know nothing about. With no central coordination and communication, the overall effective­ness and impact of community cultural activities is greatly diminished, and community resources are not shared. A number of community arts councils have been formed as a result of the Cultural Plan meetings. The Austin Arts Council and Near Northwest Arts Council are located in areas which have strong leadership and are already working to increase the visibility and positive benefits of cultural activities.

R E c o M M E N D A T Io N S
Encourage the organization of a network of community arts councils through assistance by the Department of Cultural Affairs. A community arts council, consisting of representatives from neighborhood arts groups, schools, parks, libraries and businesses, can help its community by coordinating and promoting cultural activities.

Provide grants to develop and maintain community arts councils through the Depart­ment of Cultural Affairs.

Provide seed money and technical assistance through the Department of Cultural Affairs for cultural planning in the neighborhoods.

Encourage arts councils to assist in the planning of neighborhood festivals.

Living and Work Space for Artists and Arts Organizations

More than anything else, artists and arts groups need affordable and adequate living and work space. A “space of one’s own” is an essential requirement for creativity. But financial resources are scarce, market forces hostile and antiquated city codes discourage efforts to acquire space. According to a 1983 study by the National Endowment for the Arts, Chicago was the only one of eight major cities surveyed with no policy of support for artists’ space needs.

R E c o M M E N D A T I o N S’ =

Better utilize existing arts spaces in park fieldhouses, schools and libraries. The Chicago Park District, for example, has 48 fieldhouse auditoriums with stages. Only 35 of them are in use for arts activities.

Make available to cultural organizations, on reasonable terms, vacant city-owned buildings for redevelopment.
Create a “Space Registry” to help arts groups and individuals find appropriate, affordable living and work space.

Review and revise the city zoning code to permit artists to live and work in the same space.

Review and update building codes in cooperation with all affected interest groups to
eliminate inconsistencies and conflicting interpretations.

Assess the real estate of artists (if owner occupied) and cultural and arts organizations at lower rates.

Community Cultural Centers

Every community also expressed a need for a “space of its own” for arts and cultural activities. A cultural center can bring an additional focus to the community by providing challenging programs for its youth, stimulating the local economy and offering new opportunities for local artists and arts groups.

R E c o M M E N D A T o N s
Assist communities in determining the feasibility and planning of community cultural
centers, as is being done by the Department of Cultural Affairs at the Hild Cultural Center in the Lincoln Square area.

Develop public-private partnerships to create such centers where feasible.
Make vacant city-owned property available, where appropriate, for redevelopment as
community cultural centers, and help identify other public or private property for this purpose.

Make city financing and other resources available to community cultural center rede­
velopment projects. Both the Viatorian Mansion development and the Mexican Fine Arts Center have received public support of this kind.

Bring existing and new community cultural centers into a citywide network of centers.

Equip certain cultural centers – in geographically diverse areas of the city – with
features such as climate controlled galleries, adequate stage area and security to permit them to host exhibits and performances from downtown institutions and touring groups.

Establish local control and possible ownership of community cultural centers. Com­
munities would be responsible for programming and maintenance of centers, with support from public agencies.

Plan to include appropriate revenue~producing and fundraising activities in commu­nity cultural centers to help underwrite the costs of operations.

Center City and Major Institutions

A vibrant city depends on the vitality of its cultural life. fn Chicago, our cultural institutions, including museums and performance facilities, have received international acclaim. These institutions greatly need resources for renovation, expansion, and sometimes, for new facilities. The private sector and the Park District have played leading roles in assisting organizations such as the Field Museum and the Art Institute with their facilities programs. The city and the private sector created a unique partnership to save the Chicago Theater. We must have more creative partnerships to meet the future needs of our great cultural institutions.

R E c o M M E N D A T o N s
Increase coordination of cultural facilities policy and planning among the Planning,
Economic Development, Public Works and Cultural Affairs departments.

Identify new public and private sector financing sources and techniques to support
development of new facilities and renovation of major institutions.

Identify tenants and private sector funding to supplement city financing for the redevelopment of Theater Rowan Dearborn Street.

Pursue private-public partnerships for the redevelopment of Navy Pier as a cultural
and recreational attraction, as suggested by the Mayor’s Navy Pier Task Force.

Include the Department of Cultural Affairs in the planning process to enhance the success of the new Chicago Public Library, the most important new cultural facility being constructed in the city.

Develop a two-fold policy of city support for major facilities development, both to major facilities without institutional affiliation (such as Theater Row or tbe Auditorium) and to existing major institutions (whether or not on Park District land).

The Cultural Center

Under the Department of Cultural Nfairs, in cooperation with the Chicago Public Library, the Cultural Center hosts 500 free programs and exhibits annually and has a fine reputation for thematic programming and showcasing of diverse local artists. But Cultural Center program­ming has been perceived as an addendum to the facility’s primary role as a library. There is a need for a full-fledged cultural center downtown that can highlight the very best of Chicago’s creativity and diversity, give prominence to the variety of our European Ethnic, Hispanic, Asian, Native American and Black arts traditions, diversify cultural offer­ings in the Loop and become the city’s star in Chicago’s cultural galaxy. The Cultural Center
has the potential to become such a facility.

R E c o M M E N o A TI o N s
Establish a joint committee to begin preliminary planning for the Cultural Center’s future as the new public library becomes a reality. The committee should consist of representa­tives from the Public Library, the Departrnentof Cultural Nfairs and otherconcemed parties.

Explore new funding sources for the further development and operation of the Cultural Center, including such current sources as the Library Fund, hoteUmotel tax fund, private sector financing and other revenue options.

Extend the number of hours the Cultural Center is currently open to the public.
Increase promotion of Cultural Center activities.


Funding for Individual Artists and Cultural Organizations

Financial support from both the public and private sector is crucial to the survival of a healthy arts and cultural community. Direct federal support for the arts and humanities is among the lowest of all developed countries. While the private sector has been generous in its support for some elements of our cultural life, that too must be expanded and broadened. The City of Chicago started to support Chicago’s cultural life in a serious way only a few years ago. The growth of its support in the form of grants from the Department of Cultural Affairs has been great – particularly to organizations outside the parameters of mainstream philanthropy. Far more, however, must be done to support all facets of the city’s arts and cultural community, from individuals to community-based organizations to major and mid-sized institutions.

R E c o M M E N D A T I o N s
Increase the size and scope of the CityArts Grant program which provides both program and operating support for Chicago cultural institutions.
Increase the dollar amount of Neighborhood Arts Program grants for individual artists.

Initiate a fellowship program for artists to pursue their own work and inaugurate a
special artist awards program.

Provide grants – such as the forthcoming Department of Cultural Affairs “Commu­
nity Arts Assistance Program,” funded with support from the Illinois Arts Council – to organizations with limited or no access to conventional funding source grants.

Advocate increased support from the Illinois Arts Council for the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs.

Create a revolving business loan fund for artists and cultural organizations, such as
the forthcoming Department of Cultural Affairs “Cultural Facilities Development Loan Pro­gram” offered in cooperation with the Department of Economic Development.

Subsidize rent to artists in publicly owned buildings for both living and work space in exchange for community service projects performed by those artists.

Provide sweat equity projects in which artist/tenants do post-construction work in exchange for ownership rights, similar to projects initiated in Minneapolis/St.Paul.

Strengthen the principles of peer selection and balanced distribution of grants to underscore equity and quality in all funding matters.

Technical and Materials Resource Centers for Artists and Not-far-Profit Cultural Groups
Many organizations need administrative support – such as access to office equipment and supplies – and help in obtaining costumes, props and other items specific to their discipline. A number of creative solutions have been developed by other cities with great success. Although in some cities these resource centers are funded and operated by the city, they could also be developed by the private sector or through a private-public partnership.

R E c o M M E N o A T I o N s
Create Administrative Support Centers where organizations can use office equipment
and supplies, such as telephone answering services, copy machines and mail drops.

Create a Materials and Supply Center, where organizations can apply for items such
as furniture, office and art supplies, as well as other materials donated by corporations, other arts organizations and individuals. New York’s Department of Cultural Affairs has success­fully run such a center for years.

Create a Costume Bank, similar to the ones in San Francisco and New York State, where theater groups can both store and rent costumes.

Create Technical Equipment Banks specific to various arts diSciplines, so groups can
both store and rent such equipment as lights, public address systems and audio/visual equipment.

Administrative Training and Services for Cultural Organizations and Individuals

The need for assistance in management, financial planning and administrative skills neces­sary to operate a cultural organization was expressed frequently during the Cultural Plan meetings. Both public and private initiatives exist to provide administrative assistance, such as the ongoing program operated by the Business Volunteers for the Arts and management training programs offered at various schools, universities and the Department of Cultural Affairs. These efforts need to be broadened and made available to a larger segment of the cultural community.

R E c o M M E N D A T o N s
Increase management and administrative assistance programs for artists and cultural
organizations available at the Department of Cultural Affairs and through local colleges and universities.

Disseminate information more effectively on management and administrative semi­nars conducted by the Department of Cultural Affairs and other organizations.
Support and enlarge the pool of management consultants available to assist artists and cultural organizations.

Make management assistance programs offered by other city agencies available to artists, as many such programs are currently restricted to for-profit businesses.


Elementary and Secondary Schools

The arts should be an integral part of schooling and reestablished as a priority in curricula. Viewed as an “add-on” to other subjects, the arts are too often the first program eliminated when school budgets are cut. Not only do we develop future arlists and audiences in school arts programs, but children are exposed to creative learning and problem-solving that ex­pands their learning abilities.
The current Board of Education and General Superintendent have indicated not only
a willingness but a desire to return the arts to education. The Department of Cultural Affairs should work cooperatively with the Board and other non-public school systems to establish the arts as a component of basic education.

R E c o M M E N D A T i o N s
Offer a full program of arts in elementary and secondary education, including restora­tion of a two-year arts and music course requirement in secondary schools.

Advocate increased arts funding in education budgets.

Strengthen teacher education in the arts so that all teachers will have the ability to use the arts as a teaching tool.

Provide resources in the education budget to fund student access to a wide variety of cultural resources – such as museums, performing and visual arts – and to fund develop­ment of educational arts materials designed for the students.

Expand the Artist-in-Residence program of the lIIinois Arts Council, the arts in school programs of Urban Gateways, Young Audiences, and other organizations through additional education and cultural appropriations. All students can benefit from hands-on creative instruction from professional artists.

Enrich and expand the Lighted Schoolhouse Program, a program of afterschool activities for youth, with quality arts programming.

Adult and Continuing Education

Arts education does not stop at the schoolhouse door, but remains an important source of knowledge and creativity throughout our lives. By restoring a complete program of arts in adult and continuing education, Chicago citizens have the opportunity to fulfill their poten­tial for creative expression and development.

R E c o M M E N D A T o N s
Include the full spectrum of arts diSciplines in continuing education programs.
Use cultural centers, park buildings, libraries and other facilities for adult and continu­ing education.

Advocate increased appropriations for the arts within continuing education budgets.



Revenue Options
The cultural life of our city needs and deserves an influx of new dollars to realize the Plan’s recommendations. Some of the recommendations require little additional funding, but primarily involve the interest and effort of city departments and cultural organizations. Additional appropriations will be necessary, however, to implement many of the recommen­dations of the Cultural Plan. There are many innovative methods of financing recommended projects – some of which are noted throughout the plan – as well as services and programs which are revenue producing.There is also a pressing need for additional support from the private sector, through in-kind as well as monetary contributions. The city must use its leverage, through partner­ships and other methods, to encourage increased corporate sponsorship of cultural activities.

R E c o M M E N D A T o N s
Increase appropriations – at the city, state and federal l eve l – for existing and new
cultural programs.

Include cultural projects in general obligation bond issues.

Create special purpose bond issues for cultural projects, as is done in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Broaden access to public bonding procedures for major cultural institutions, which has been done successfully in New York City.

Increase and earmark funds for joint cultural projects with other city departments, such as housing, jobs and public works programs.

Encourage development of programs through which corporations contribute to cul­
tural and not-far-profit activities, such as Minneapolis’ “Five Percent Club” and other efforts currently under way in Chicago.

Dedicate a portion of the amusement tax on movie houses for film/video development. Currently, all such revenues go into the general treasury.

Eliminate the amusement tax on legitimate theater to stimulate commercial theater production, proViding a broader tax base. Chicago currently has the highest such levy in the nation.

Increase Chicago’s share of the state hoteUmotel tax, given the contribution that Chicago cultural activities bring to the economic health of Illinois.
Establish fee schedules for proposed city-operated materials and resource centers, similar to the fee schedules established in San Francisco.

Provide technical assistance to artists and cultural organizations, enabling them to move toward self-support.



The Chicago Cultural Plan is based on the firm conviction that any blueprint for action is worthless unless the people affected are involved in the planning process. Although many cities have cultural plans, none has the scope and community input found in the Chicago Cultural Plan. The Cultural Plan took shape from the careful distillation of hundreds of suggestions and concerns. It is a plan by and for the city, built solidly upon the needs and aspirations of Chicago citizens. I t is not an attempt to impose one vision upon the city, butrather aplan that springs from the hearts and minds of the very people it seeks to serve. Cultural Plan Director Michael Dorf and his staff spent 18 months meeting with neighborhood, community and ethnic groups, as well as ‘vith representatives of all arts
disCiplines, cultural institutions, city departments and planning groups. In the process, they held more than 300 meetings and involved a total of 10,000 participants, induding the support and involvement of 36 aldermen.
Cultural Plan meetings were held in 65 Chicago community areas as established by the 1980 census report. Prior to each meeting, area leaders met to set an agenda. Notices were sent to members of local arts groups and community organizations and were posted on community bulletin boards to alert area residents to the meetings. Public service announce­ments and paid advertising were also used as appropriate. Three citywide meetings were held with Latino, Asian and Native American artists respectively, as well as a roundtable meeting co-sponsored by Urban Traditions and the Illinois Consultation on Ethnicity.
A special meeting was held for representatives of center city and major downtown
cultural institutions.

Six discipline-specific citywide meetings were held for professionals in dance, music,
literary arts, visual arts, film and video and theater.

Cultural Plan representatives met with labor and business leaders to seek their input
and support for the plan. Separate roundtables were held for major contributors to the arts; for organizations and agencies involved in city and regional planning; and for city departments such as Human Services, Parks and Economic Development, The Chicago Public Library and the Board of Education.

Input was solicited from Chicago area colleges and universities, from elementary and secondary school teachers and administrators and from other educational organizations such as the Archdiocese of Chicago. Citywide meetings were held with community and neighborhood organizations once the plan was drafted for their additional input and support.

A preliminary plan was presented at a citywide meeting on December 12, 1986, attended by 250 representatives from many of the organizations which participated in the planning meetings. Based on their final input, these recommendations are presented as a comprehensive plan designed to recognize and increase the crucial role that culture and the arts plays in the vitality and economic well-being of Chicago.

As members of the Board, we were the first of the many volunteers who became intimately involved in the development of the Chicago Cultural Plan. We have seen an increased recognition of the critical role that arts and culture play in every aspect of city life. We have witnessed a groundswell of citizen support and enthusiasm for the development of a sound cultural policy that recognizes this valuable role, as well as the role that our city’s cultural institutions and diverse neighborhood programs play in the city’s reputation at home, across
the nation and around the world. And we are very proud to be part of this great effort.

The members ofthe Cullural Affuirs Advisory Boord

(The Cultural Affairs Advisory Board is appointed by tht Mayor with consent of the City Council to represent neighborhood cultural organiznlions, practicing artists and the community al large. including business, labor and major citywide cultural
organizations. They have endorsed, supported and assisted the process which resulted in the development of this plan.)

Mixed Movement comes to Chi-town!

Mixed Movement, an international event will be coming to Chicago soon…here’s a bit of info on it:
Mixed Movement is an open stage for dancers to improvise with live musicians while sharpening and sharing their skills. At its essence Mixed Movement is a place where no matter what your movement background, you can come together and celebrate with others the joy of dance, whether you sign up and participate, or just watch.

The event is the brainchild of dancer, theatre artist, and poet DawN Crandell – who has created an open stage for dancers after being frustrated with the lack of spontaneous opportunities for performance and the segmentation of the various dance communities.Created in New York City, USA in February 2009, Mixed Movement came across the pond to reside at Contact in August 2009 where it is now a successful monthly event.

The night begins with improvised solos. In the second round these eight dancers are paired up chance, their names pulled out of a hat, and then magic of Mixed Movement manifests. Movers from different backgrounds find and create a common language of the body in the moment. Next we turn to the audience for the inspired Wild Card Section, where we invite three to five members to improvise a group piece on the spot.

more to come…

Re-Frame: Communing

Please join Insight Arts in their first winter series’ Nights of Insight on Friday, January 20 from 7 to 9 PM at Rumble Arts Center (3413 W North Ave).

This month we will be Re-Framing Community (facilitated by Baraka de Soleil) exploring issues and challenges artists face in the creative process. Topics to be explored include community, gender politics and artists vulnerabilities. Participants will also get the chance to experience the process of Re-Frame.

Last month artists participating in Re-Frame: A Gathering, a D UNDERBELLY initiative curated & co-facilitated by Awilda Rodríguez Lora and Baraka de Soleil, sought to create a communal space for rigorous experimentation and investigation of an expansive performance aesthetic. They offered three unique showings of their process in partnership with Insight Arts, Rumble Arts Center and Links Hall.

We also invite you to join us in Rogers Park on Saturday, January 21 for a critical discussion on Re-Framing Community from 4:30 to 6:30 PM at the Center for New Possibilities (1505 W Morse Ave).

Artist participants, witnesses and co-sponsoring organization affiliates will be present to engage in fertile dialogue surrounding what it means to re-frame creative process within community.

Artist participants from Chicago’s 2011 Re-Frame project:
Victoria Martínez
Ching-In Chen
Iman Crutcher
Michael Johnson
Rebecca Kling
Anansi Knowbody
Sojourner Zenobia Wright
Isaac Fosl Van-Wyke
Eboni Senai Hawkins

reframeagathering.blogspot.com for more details on Re-Frame: A Gathering

we (liv)

sublime is the time to recognize
how imaginings come real
when we feel beyond the reaches of space
and face the depths of our be-ing
this mile is like no other
so stop being next
be the new
dive headfirst into the calm
balm of sanctity’s
and live the unknown

tonite and tomorrow and the day after that…Re-Framing the creative process within community


Across cultures, disciplines & neighborhoods in Chicago, from various aesthetic backgrounds, 9 dynamic artist participants communed inside the vastness of an “open space”. Asked to bring all of who they are into the room and challenged to speak & create into existence what they felt came from their creative lineage, these artists listened, offered each other feedback through a rigorous protocol, were provoked, sometimes frustrated and took risks exploring, experimenting and excavating their ‘body of work’. Sometimes their task was to simplify, other times to layer, juxtapose or interrupt their way of routinely developing art. 5 components will be reflected from this journey: Food (we always ate together) Featured moments (3 artists will be highlighted each gathering) Installation Interaction ( a chance to participate in and/ witness other dimensions of their unique experience) Response (engage with us in dialogue surrounding the creative work witnessed) Re-Frame ( a chance for the artists to engage in collaborative moments with each other. a chance for all to experiment!) Now this evening they have gathered with you to share what it means to Re-Frame creative process within community. reframe: a gathering in Chicago

Artist Participants:
Victoria Martínez
Ching-In Chen
Iman Crutcher
Michael Johnson
Rebecca Kling
Anansi Knowbody
Sojourner Zenobia Wright
Isaac Fosl Van-Wyke
Eboni Senai Hawkins

Facilitated by Baraka de Soleil & Awilda Rodriguez Lora

un-finished wo-man’s song

she sings softly


swaying  hips that were never meant to be forgiven

only to be rephrased over and over

and over once again.

the coiling of arms intertwine with scents of her lust and

beneath her tongue’s subtle ebb & flow

a spraying of mist exists


up and down

side to side

out and in

between her lips

all while she’s


no other sounds are realized

except the willfullness of  breath

exposed as she share woes for only those present to absorb

and carry with them this un-finished song long after she’s gone

she gone



from Awilda to Re-frame

Thank you Baraka and all the artists that have been gathering with the intention, desire and exploration for the Re-Framing of the creative/collective process that is Re-Frame: A Gathering Project.

Currently living in Puerto Rico and sharing via skype and phone with Baraka and the artists. Time moves ever so quickly and so dynamic with all the creative energy flowing in all directions.

I made the decision after 12 years living in the US where I was able to study, train, work, collaborate, create and perform in a interdisciplinary ways to return what i call the beginning. A place where discovery was the ingredient and the unknown was scary. My spirit is one of constant movement and the decision to return to the place where it all began, Puerto Rico has been an experience of both many discoveries and challenges.

The opportunity to co-facilitate this project with Baraka de Soleil is a unique and exciting experience. I bring with me the passion and commitment to develop and promote spaces where discovery and risk are core values of the process for creation.

Based on the “Law of two feet” that is crucial for the creative process for collaborations that is the Open Space Technology(OST) framework used in this project, artists walk into a space of discovery. I thank them all for entering the space of Rumble Arts Center and that later on will continue the flow to Links Hall.

The days are passing by and the enthusiasm continues to built up. Thanks again to all the supporters of this project who have donated, spread the word and shared their thoughts with us.

See you all December 5th when I will be arriving to enter the space as both a facilitator and an artist.

We still have 28 days to achieve our goal please continue supporting this project. See you all at the Gathering.

awilda rodriguez lora

Re-framing the beginnings of Re-Frame: A Gathering

wanted to share insight into Re-Frame’s creative lineage: The frameworks of this process are drawn from my experiences in Minneapolis, Chicago, NY & Panama. Liz Lerman’s critical response method has been part of my creative ‘upbringing’ since the mid 90’s in MN; experiencing this protocol at Intermedia Arts & Walker Art Center. Open Space Technology is a model i was introduced to through a NY arts organization [Arts Connection] focused on teaching artists & deepening their relationship to each other, the organization staff and teachers, principals of schools we were collaborating with. As an artist inside the process, i had the privilege to return to Minneapolis in 2009 and experience the illuminating convergence of both protocols at Pangea World Theatre; through a challenging and exciting projected entitled “Bridges”, curated by J. Otis Powell in alliance with Pangea’s Dipankar Mukherjee & Meena Natarajan. Bridges brought together artists from various cultural, aesthetic and disciplinary backgrounds to engage in a creative collaborative process. So inspired by this experience, i sought to continue developing processes that brought diverse groups of artists together and in 2010, had the opportunity to go to Panama to work on a landmark project, “Agua/Tierra”, co-facilitated & produced with two other artists Awilda Rodriguez Lora and Tanisha Christie and co-produced by Katie Zien [who initiated the project]. The core of this multidimensional project was a coming together of Panamanian artists from distinct and diversified aesthetic background to cross-pollinate and generate a hybrid performative experience. It was phenomenal! In alignment with the critical response & Open Space, as an artist i have been honored to work inside a form that has come to be known as the ‘Theatrical Jazz Aesthetic‘; fostered by acclaimed theatre artist Sharon Bridgforth, along with Dr. Omi Osun Joni L. Jones and an incredible lineage of artists who initiated this legacy…  A deepening of understanding & facilitating what that legacy/aesthetic had to offer, having  multiple discussions with Awilda, organizations & artists within the Chicago community leads to this moment of Re-Frame…seeking to craft a space that not only honors the making of art, but delves into the practice of the creative process; moving beyond one’s individual practice into a communal setting.. This is going to be one beautiful challenge & i am excited by the artist participants who have committed to being at the core of this project…by mid-December, all multiple communities will get a chance to witness what it has meant to be part of Re-Frame: A Gathering!

Rooted Legacies

Rooted Legacies

(the evolving new thought for  D UNDERBELLY 2011 – )

the body speaks

the voice moves

rooted in legacies sometimes only the soul knows

signifying where we have come from and who we are

Who are we?

For now

We are architects of history

invoking indelible rites of passages

We are builders of spiritual houses reigned supreme by multiple ancestral energies

We are Love not just its vessel

the calm empty

We are re-imagining life as it is

and as it should be

We are falling and rising

We are deconstructing

the inside pulse of memory

We are possibilities unifying

These are our roots

Go deep

Baraka de Soleil

Re-Framing perspective…the communing begins

Re-Frame: A Gathering…the communing begins
Across cultures. Across disciplines. Engaging thoughtful discussions within the community of artists, neighbors, anyone witnessing. Inspiring collaborations. Listening. Creating consciousness surrounding the beauty & insights from the creative process…

Artists gathered last nite [Monday, November 14th] for our second session…people shared, communed, perhaps even got frustrated as we sought to define what it means to be in a creative process with others, to be in a thoughtful process, to take ownership, to be present, to be in the unknown & work, discuss & reflect from there…
as an artist facilitator, i discovered that i need to talk less and listen more and let them take hold of this space…shape it as they desire…it’s a challenge and a necessary joy!
Over this next week, you will meet these artist participants and get insight into their ‘creative lineage’…so far 9 artists participants are at the core…with artist witnesses flowing in and out to observe and gain insight into what it takes/means to be part of a gathering…

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They began to discuss online “as an artist, what has been meaningful to you in the creative process?”.

Now they get to get inside the ‘practice of that process’ and potentially explore other dimensions

Re-Frame: A Gathering

Across cultures. Across disciplines. Engaging thoughtful discussions within the community of artists, neighbors, anyone witnessing. Inspiring collaborations. Listening. Creating consciousness surrounding the beauty & insights from the creative process… 
Facilitated by award-winning performance artist Baraka de Soleil & co-facilitated by multidisciplinary artist Awilda Rodriguez Lora Re-Frame: A Gathering is a two-fold communal workshop  for artists at variant stages of creative development. We want to provide a sustainable space for active witnessing, supportive feedback  and rigorous crafting AND a laboratory for experimentation through interdisciplined explorations and cross-cultural discussions. Re-Frame: A Gathering focuses on the ‘practice of process’ – what is discovered in the act of making work is valuable and should be experienced as well, by other artists, by the larger community.

Baraka de Soleil and Awilda Rodriguez Lora initially met in Chicago. He was curating a unique multidisciplinary series “Studies n Black” for Links Hall and she produced an award-winning film STILL BLACK: a portrait of black transmen that premiered in Chicago. Since meeting, they have worked together on numerous creative endeavors including S’Kin Deep and most recently co-facilitated Agua/Tierra: A Listening Project in Panama in 2010.

Re-Frame: A Gathering is an initiative of D UNDERBELLY, a network of artists of color, seeking to create a  communal space for rigorous experimentation and investigation of an expansive performance aesthetic.  One that can serve as a model for creative process within community that can adapt and shift to various areas throughout the country &  internationally.   Through both invitation to select artists within the experimental art community and an open call, we will seek out a diverse group of 7 -10 with wide-range of disciplines who have a creative lineage (how they have been making work), a piece to ‘excavate’ and a desire to be part of a contemporary practice. Re-Frame: A Gathering will start with the artistic community of Chicago.

Our current vision:

The workshop process will begin in November with weekly Re-Frame sessions where Baraka will lead artists participants through a series of techniques in order to cultivate: communal consciousness around witnessing & offering feedback, excavation of themes/pieces brought by each individual artist and potential collaborative groupings. This leads to the beginning of December where Awilda will join the process as co-facilitator, to take artists through an intensive journey towards deepening the practice of the developing works.  Mid-December at A Gathering with the larger community, artist participants will share their developing work, engage in conversations and share food for thought and body!

Re-Frame: A Gathering’ Key Objectives

To provide:

– a reduced cost or free opportunity for artist participants.

– a platform for creative process that can be molded to whatever communities it travels to….

– a unique opportunity for experimentation, to ‘dig deep’ & try things out with developing work or already-created work that may need ‘re-framing’.

To support:

– artists at whatever stage in their career.

– exchange and community building

– sustainability for the active creative process

To enhance:

– a multidisciplinary network of artists within the Chicago experimental aesthetic community and beyond.

– an expansive & diversified cross-pollination of collaborative possibilities.

– visibility for process-driven models with thoughtful intercultural community engagement.

Funds from this campaign will support the vision  in multiple ways beyond the costs associated with creating work.  We deeply believe that with your support, Re-Frame: A Gathering will impact not only the artist participants, facilitators and community of witnesses, but the larger discussion on the value of the creative process.

For Re-Frame: A Gathering, we are seeking to raise funds to support space rental costs, materials for the workshop process, honorarium for the artist participants and facilitators involved.

More specifically if we reach:

  • $1500, this amount will cover rental & production costs associated with the space; both for workshop process & performance showings
  • $2000, in addition to covering rental, will support any materials for the workshop process, ‘bare-bones’ production elements for the showing & travel for one artist facilitator
  • $3000, in addition to the above, secures a no cost opportunity for all artist participants and provide honorarium for both artist facilitators &
  • $4000, in addition the above funds, will provide  honorarium for each of the artist participant

In alignment with this campaign, we are working to ensure Re-Frame: A Gatheringhappens, even with the smallest of funds including:
  • soliciting in-kind contributions from organizations to reduce the cost for rental of space.
  • box office contributions from A Gathering‘s three showings.
  • barter/trade of services in order to promote/market the event.
  • based on amount raised, seek financial investments from artists who wish to participate in the process.
  • re-configuring the model so that it will reduce costs but still honor the artists & the process.
  • cooking meals that can be purchased at the showings.

We want to you to know that we value whichever amount you pledge. In exchange for your support, Baraka de Soleil, Awilda Rodriguez Lora, artists participants & D UNDERBELLY will acknowledge you through the program, online, via phone, with hand-made art, original designs, through complimentary tickets, invitations to A Gathering and future projects. You’ll notice on our perks list what kind of acknowledgement each tier of funding support will garner.

Other Ways You Can Help

If in Chicago, come to A Gathering.  Join us for food, art, dialogue and community building….this will further support the artists & future opportunities for more gatherings…check out our site: http://reframeagathering.blogspot.com/  for the updates. Current dates  December 16th – 18th, 2011. A gathering will offer a unique experience with up to 3 different artists sharing their process each nite.

Spread the word by putting this campaign on your facebook, twitter or other social network site.

Email blast your networks.   

And be part of the discussion: What has been meaningful to you as an artist in the creative process? 
Whether you may consider yourself an artist or not, your thoughts will be appreciated and expand the discussion on why people should support the creative process of artists.  

water moves the soul – RETURN experimental choral rendering for a voice and many bodies

i share this as a beginning of distilling the memories i experienced while being in ghana in 2007…this is its first poetic rendering

water to replenish
a large body of water
breath to cleanse, fired up dry
wind to move, steady gust of wind
21 days. 37 years 3 years ago, 20 decades
how many centuries since one begets a life that amounts to 2 hours of wondering if 37 – 3 years ago would be the last year of existence…..the moment, prior to being grabbed and taken, strength… still feel weakened by the hours, days, months of years of being held against will…. shackled, imprisoned, tortured across the water…a large body …in a small vessel and taken to unknown land; unknown ways, life…
beginning in
Cape Coast Ghana – two and 1/2 hours from Accra Cape Coast
a two hour walk TO
immerse TO take in
the ocean
to Cape Coast TO ancestors…
you come here for redemption’
to El Mina’
can feel ancestral sensations the moment one steps inside the female dungeon…it is a feeling so palpable and strong …it’s like can still see smell the stench shit and blood and piss of those African females held here…on the ground there are markings
dark cavernous area
heaviness in my heart and longing
Assin Manso
the long walk of ancestral Africa to who knows where
Assin Manso
where brought to rest were the slave remains
from Salaga market up north ‘last bath’…
Tamale, WALKING, chained together feet, hands, neck, fall. rise. knees. thirst.
through trees and forest
to sacred waters flow…sacred
the ancestral bodies last cleansing
texture of the trees, the color of water, sounds of river, the quiet …
in Ghana
lookout upon a hill, past frail mango tree
ascend to a healing
of a healing
the pain anguish of the inflicted souls…bow
spirit’ falling
21 – 37 – 20, journey, 21 centuries
RETURNING to the sensations
the morning ‘baptism’
awakening a deeper connection
a feeling
ancestors being here… portrait of what transpired …. standing on hundreds of years old feces, piss, blood, sweat, skin and bones ancestors….thousands of African’s bodies piled ontop of each other as they screamed, sought comfort …fought to survive beyond the holding area –
whole being open and alive now…sensitive to air smells the ocean so close …aware of the opening of the door of no return … fishing kingdom – the Fanti – ocean coast…
guiding seeing walk lifting carrying lift carrying and lifting journey breath lifted onto
the water passage 1 1/2 hours 21 days, journey, 37 years, journey, 20 somethin decades, journey, 21 centuries”
a large body
seized by ancestors coming up from the ocean waves and on board on top cannot open eyes getting heavier and heavier sense more and more ancestral bodies piling on top of bodies tilthe weight is almost unbearable
can barely breathe….
sounds of the waves and the sensation endured journey NOT knowing the end…going on for months in cramped spaces, chained, ensconced in darkness…
a day later, months years ounds voices eyes move….cross water to land….carried
land falls step
land touch water before land, lifted and land on this new site… not able to speak
distance between falling and fallen
a minute an hour a decade a century passes and returns
unfolds /souls moving
walk legacies memories
memory conscious memories of people these memories, the ancestral memories residue, shackles salty ocean water…remember whipping..
re-remembering water
elder says
“We came from the water and to the water we shall return”
elder says
the going in the sacred anointing
water to replenish
a large body of water
breath to cleanse, fired up dry
wind to move, steady gust of wind
earth. make an offering, name it, find it, ask .sense.
elder says
earth. find tree. make an offering:
the meditation, reconciliation releasing old tree elder – coarse and mangled, yet majestic….those trees that seem to have captured the many spirits of those people whom have come in contact with it
a tree that, if it could speak, would be able to tell some of the most horrific and spellbinding tales…a tree that, if it could speak, may choose not to reveal the sacred secrets or hidden encounters it has witnessed seen felt heard
speak elder ancestors speak
Freed Slave Gordon of Louisiana (1863)
Martin Luther King
W.E.B. Dubois
Sojourner Truth
Booker T. Washington
Dr. Kwame Nkrumah
Harriet Tubman
Benjamin Singleton – “walk and never tire”
Ouladah Equiano
Frederick Douglas
George Ekem Ferguson
Marcus Garvey —
No one knows when the hour of Africa’s redemption cometh. It is in the wind,
It is in the wind
It is inthe wind, it is coming.
One day like a storm, it will be here. When that day comes, all of Africa will stand together.”

the “O” – unfinished!

Childr’n of “O” – the workshop process begins March 31st….
This piece is a journey towards discovering the multifaceted dimensions of this iconic black woman. In this regard, she is an allegory – the metaphor of Oprah or “O” as everywoman in our culture; but not only representing women, but men, children of all races. To get at the many layers of this fascinating and beloved figure, I am experimenting with how the hybrid of disciplines I employ dance, theatre, video, conceptual art) can truly embody “O”. I am also seeking to re-establish my cultural relationship with her as a black man, coming from Chicago, ‘trying to make it’. To me “O” is an American dream realized. One that has been objectified and glorified; mammy-tized & ostracized; deemed saint and blasphemously condemned. Inside the waking conscience of cosmic space and temporal distortions exists the humanity and charisma that begat ‘The Childr’n of “O”!