A City of Communities
Woman Made Gallery is proud to present the final exhibition for year two of its Community Arts Program, “20 Neighborhoods.”
Thirteen of last year’s project partners and fifteen teaching artists joined forces in groups of ones and twos to carry out arts workshops and community showcase exhibitions in nine neighborhoods across Chicago, with a focus on collaborative art creation and a goal of deepening connections between communities.
Woman Made Gallery designed the structure for this year’s project in collaboration with last year’s partner organizations, teaching artists, and participating artists. All involved expressed a desire to work more closely with other groups across the city, and to create opportunities for exhibition of their artwork in their respective neighborhoods, and not just at Woman Made Gallery.
As the project took shape we found it challenging to schedule workshops in which two groups could participate. To reflect what is written in some of the project statements, Chicago is a large city and can be difficult to traverse, especially without access to transportation. Not to mention, most of our partner organizations have already-packed schedules and stretched resources as they work incredibly hard to provide scarce services and strengthen their own communities.
In the final project structure, the majority of the workshops were not shared between groups, and so we found other ways to communicate and collaborate with one another. Some groups shared photos, project ideas, and materials. One group passed a paper chain onto another group to finish. Despite large geographic distances and differences in identity, common aesthetics and ideas emerged between the projects; sometimes spontaneously, and sometimes with planning.
The majority of the workshop groups held Community Showcase Exhibitions, usually at the site of where their workshops took place. Gallery staff joined teaching artists, partner organization staff, participating artists, friends, and family, to reflect on and celebrate the artwork.
It was exciting to witness the many forms that these mini-exhibitions took—the senior residents of Roseland Place celebrated their finished “Church” sculpture with a fried chicken luncheon and balloons. The Bridgeport/ Bronzeville (and Woodlawn, Chatham, South Shore, and more…) group gathered with their children and grandchildren around their Artists Dinner table in the darkened upstairs gallery of the South Side Community Art Center. With only their wire chandelier to light the artwork, they read their project statement aloud, and shared anecdotes and learnings from their art-making experience. At Centro Autónomo in Albany Park, the group met in the morning to collectively sew together and string their banderas (flags) up on the wall of their grand hall. In the afternoon, we celebrated by dancing to Latin music, and sharing flowers, food, and conversation.
For many of the groups, the Community Showcases were the first art exhibitions to exist in their spaces. For Woman Made Gallery, this exhibition is our first show of work that is truly collaborative and community-produced.
We hope that the exhibition environment carries the freshness and celebration of these firsts, and along with that, some of the humility that goes into community building and artistic production. We all made this artwork through a great amount of stretching—to work with new art materials, to communicate with one another—to connect.
As an art gallery, we want to continue to stretch, and the communities who form the 20 Neighborhoods project are our greatest inspiration. We thank our partner organizations, teaching artists, participating artists, and our whole team, for making this experience possible.