Chicago Park District's Young Cultural Stewards (YCS) critically and creatively engage art, technology, and media to become advocates and caretakers of their parks, neighborhoods, and communities. YCS engages over 2,500 youth across 100 parks and 45 neighborhoods through community-based programming including TRACE (Teens Re-Imagine Art, Community, and Environment), Inferno Mobile Recording Studio, YCS Fellowship, and ArtSeed Mobile Creative Play. YCS builds on best practices within the field of informal art education and creative youth development to cultivate:
Reframe public parks as sites for cultural organizing and creative capacity building
Preserve and contributing to indigenous, local, and global cultural practices
Build 21st century skills of creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking
Cultivate the development of positive self-identity, community, and solidarity
Nurture the capacity to imagine change and the willingness to work for it
Practice culture making as a tool for social change
Foster trust, vulnerability, and the development of interdependent relationships
Utilize restorative and transformative justice to address harm and create accountability
Provide job training, career readiness, and building the capacity of youth as leaders and lifelong changemakers
chicago home theater festival
Chicago Home Theater Festival (CHTF) invites strangers into each other’s homes to share a communal meal, experience transformative art, and build intentional community across lines of difference. CHTF centers the leadership of women and femmes, artists of color, immigrants and refugees, LGBTQ folks, and artists with disabilities whose creative practice disrupts injustice and paves cultural safe passages across our hyper-segregated city.
Since its inception in 2012, CHTF has organized over 500 artists and 5,000 neighbors in over 25 distinct neighborhoods and public parks. In its fifth year, CHTF is focused on three concrete goals: 1) building creative capacity within neighborhoods that have experienced disinvestment, 2) creating access for artists and audiences across the spectrum of race, gender, sexuality, and ability, and 3) curating performances and conversations that create possibilities for personal, social, and structural transformation.
Every night we ask guests to turn to a stranger and share the story of their journey to the venue. We ask guests to see who is in the room and why — but we also ask who is not there: what physical, political, economic and cultural structures prevent or dissuade equal access to spaces. Not everyone can make it to our homes. Most homes in Chicago and in the festival are not accessible as outlined under the American Disabilities Act. So each night, in art and in conversation, we explore the ways by which culture and institutions shape how people navigate public and private spaces, and what we can do to create more access, inclusion, and justice.
Over the past five years, CHTF has worked to build diverse coalitions of cultural producers, advocates, and organizers who are committed to redistributing creative capital in an equitable and just manner throughout Chicago. We aim to transform the cultural landscape of Chicago by creating spaces that honor marginalized groups and amplify their narratives and struggles. We choose to work in homes because we believe that art done and experienced in private, intimate spaces can transform how we relate to each other in our public lives.
CHTF values knowledge-sharing between hosts, tour guides, artists, and audiences that center the histories, skills, and cultural practices of the local community. We privilege artistic producers, hosts, tour guides, and artists who identify as LGBTQ, people of color, women and femmes, migrants, and people with disabilities. CHTF believes in a holistic approach to accessibility with consideration to physical ability, mental health, as well as community safety. We believe in holding ourselves and each other accountable to the ways we fall short of our vision.
The International Home Theater Festival was founded by Philip Huang in 2010 as a way to reclaim domestic space as a forum for cultural organizing. Launched in Berkeley, California it has since been produced in over a dozen countries across numerous continents. In the United States, The Chicago Home Theater Festival is the only organized effort to fulfill this mission while also addressing specific issues facing its home city. The Chicago Home Theater launched in 2012 by founding producers Irina Zadov, Blake Russell, and Laley Lippard with an intention to disrupt historically entrenched race and class divides and continues to re-imagine safety and accessibility. The arts have been at the heart of Chicago’s labor, immigration, civil rights, and other movements for justice and liberation. Inspired to continue this legacy, and once again put artists at the forefront of social change, CHTF founding producers endeavored to re-route Chicago’s creative maps by way of radical generosity.
cities of peace
Young people in Chicago and Phnom Penh are separated by language, culture, and nearly 9,000 miles of Pacific Ocean. What aligns their experiences are shared histories of state and interpersonal violence and generational trauma. As we mark the fortieth anniversary of the Khmer Rouge genocide which took the lives of nearly one in four Cambodians, a group of Chicago activists organized under “We Charge Genocide” are petitioning the United Nations to recognize a global epidemic of police violence that disproportionately impacts young people of color as well as queer, trans, and gender nonconforming youth from marginalized communities.
Cities of Peace is an intergenerational initiative which connects the struggles of young people in Chicago and Phnom Penh as they organize to transform harm caused by state and interpersonal violence and create community healing. Using their own site-specific histories as a jumping off point, the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the Peace Institute of Cambodia have formed delegations of youth Peace Fellows who have interrogated the roots of structural and relational violence and practiced transformative justice.
Over the course of two years (2014-2016), youth have participated in an international exchange through which Chicago Peace Fellows visited Cambodia in April 2015 and Cambodian Peace Fellows visited Chicago in July 2015. The exchange centered histories of state violence and community resistance featuring local historians, human rights advocates, legislators, community organizers, artists, as well as survivors of violence and trauma. The exchange culminated in a Youth Peace Summit through which young activists shared their experiences and presented a collective platform for international solidarity.
During the second year of the initiative, Peace Fellows worked in partnership with the Chicago Grassroots Curriculum Taskforce to develop a trauma-informed critical curriculum. This toolkit includes original research, lesson plans, community organizing techniques, arts interventions, and classroom engagement activities for educators and youth doing critical resistance and healing work. This curriculum was launched at the Teachers for Social Justice Curriculum Fair and will be distributed to local, national, and international educators and youth workers in partnership with the Cambodian Peace Institute and the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience.
In additional to curriculum development, Peace Fellows supported the production of a documentary film created in collaboration with Free Spirit Media which is designed as a companion to the curriculum and acts as a powerful counter-narrative to popular media representations of young people of color, LGBTQ young people, and low income youth. This film is available online and may be screened in classrooms, youth centers, film festivals, conferences, and all other educational/organizing spaces.
The final component of the Cities of Peace Program is a Teach-In Series through which Peace Fellows utilized that film and curriculum and partnered with local artists, activists, and scholars to facilitate trauma-informed popular education workshops with Chicago Public School Teachers and youth workers. The Teach-In Series (January - May, 2016) offered educators monthly 6 hour workshop hosted at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum with guest speakers and site visits from the Cambodian American Heritage Museum, Chicago Grassroots Curriculum Taskforce, EnLace Chicago, University of Chicago Center for Arts and Public Life, and Chicago Police Torture Justice Memorials. After completing the Teach-In Series, educators and youth workers developed K-12 lesson plans inspired by the Peace Fellows' curriculum, which is currently part of the final Cities of Peace Workbook available digitally and in print at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum.
hyde park dacha
hyde park dacha (2014-2016) is a live/work/create space which cultivates creative communities through dialogue, production, and restoration. We are a collective of women, people of color, queer, and migrant artists who utilize culture as a means of social transformation.
What's a dacha? The word dacha holds a mystical place in the hearts and minds of Soviet people. In a country known for political persecution, economic hardship, and social oppression, the dacha served as a safe haven. These rural allotments - often a shack and garden - provided sanctuary from surveillance and enabled self-sufficiency in a world where nothing was private. Dachas brought together family, friends, and neighbors who rolled up their sleeves and built a little piece of happiness among the chaos.
why Hyde Park? Abe and Irina moved back to chicago after stints in abe's native berkeley and irina's native belarus. We knew we wanted to put down roots and start a family but the question remained - where? Hyde Park seemed like the perfect mix of socioeconomic, cultural, and political life. a rare chicago neighborhood where true economic and ethnic diversity flourish. Where businesses and schools, community centers, and intellectual life are grassroots and corporate, activist and establishment. It's the home of the obamas and louis farrakhan; the University of Chicago and the largest private police force outside the vatican. Hyde Park is gentrifying and mobilizing and we're coming together with friends and neighbors to listen, learn, and build a better future.
Join us as we imagine a private/public domain where sharing is the norm. we're starting small with a few projects that make sense. This year we'll be hosting a daycare, weekly yoga classes, and quarterly salons. what's next? You tell us. Be our neighbor.
love and labor
Love and Labor: Domestic Workers as Community Docents (2013-2014) was a collaboration between the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum and the Latino Union of Chicago designed to share the story of domestic worker organizing from the turn of the 20th century to today. Over the course of six months, 1,500 visitors experienced a guided tour of Hull-House and discovered JAHHM’s latest community-curated exhibit, Unfinished Business: 21st Century Home Economics. The exhibit described the home economists’ visionary work to create a world with healthy food for all, fair labor practices for domestic work, ethical consumerism, and community childcare solutions. Following the tour, participants engaged in a facilitated dialogue during which they connected history to the contemporary struggle for dignity, respect, and legal protection for today’s care and household workers.
Chicago Coalition of Household Workers domestic worker and organizer, Myrla Baldonado reflected that “co-curating and becoming a docent of an exhibit on domestic worker was a totally empowering experience. Our stories, ideas and experiences as domestic workers were valued just as Jane Addams recognized Mary Keyser, the housekeeper and domestic organizer of the Hull House Settlement. Learning about and sharing the lives of women reformers was refreshing and inspiring. It was an honor to be a part of this."
Love and Labor blended JAHHM's mission of linking research, education, and social engagement with the CCHW’s mission of collaborating with low-income immigrant workers to develop the tools necessary to collectively improve social and economic conditions. “The exhibit and community docent program has really helped us. When we’re advocating with the Department of Labor we use the Jane Addams Hull-House exhibit and community docent program to educate legislators on the history of domestic labor organizing. It’s something stable and official - an institutional partnership that lends credibility to our work.” - Eric Rodriguez, Executive Director, Latino Union of Chicago “Indeed, what makes these tours and dialogues unique is they are not only a form of public history and education. They are a form of organizing and coalition building in their own right." - Irina Zadov, Educator Manager, JAHHM.
In 1935, in the shadows of America’s first Great Depression, two Soviet satirists were sent to the US by Pravda to depict it for an eager home audience. The resulting compilation of essays and snap shots, One-Storied America, became a fixture on every Soviet bookshelf. As Ilya Ilf and Evgeny Petrov wrote,
"The word 'America' has well-developed grandiose associations for a Soviet person, for whom it refers to a country of skyscrapers, where day and night one hears the roaring thunder of surface and underground trains, the hellish roar of automobile horns, and the continuous despairing screams of stockbrokers rushing through the skyscrapers waving their ever-falling shares.We want to change that image."
In 2012, Irina Zadov and Abraham Epton had a similar vision. A desire to rediscover their places of origin, the memories that shaped them, and the stories their current residents tell while breaking bread. Open Feast was journey around the world fueled by open source collaboration and old school hospitality. We hosted intimate potlucks with friends and strangers in an effort to bring us all a bit closer together.
feast of words
Feast of Words: A Literary Potluck is an intimate dinner party hosted by SOMArts Cultural Center and co-curated by Irina Zadov and Lex Leifheit. Community members discover local chefs and writers, bring a dish on the monthly theme and share on-the-spot writing to be entered in a drawing for edibles, books and other prizes!
"Both of us had been thinking a lot about third spaces - the space between work and home, and how to use that time to slow down and be more creative," she said. Feast of Words is a place to refresh the tradition of sitting down to a home-cooked meal and talking about creativity. IPhones are put away. Guests, as well as the invited authors, get to read their work.
"I love how Feast of Words combines writing, building community and food all inside a gallery; it feels like a dinner party with 30 unknown friends," said guest and January's invited writer Faith Adiele, author of the travel memoir, "Meeting Faith: The Thai Forest Journals of a Black Buddhist Nun."
November's theme was home away from home. Author Andrew Lam read about Vietnamese American life from his new book, "East Eats West," and chef Blair Warsham introduced the crowd to "underground guerrilla dining," where diners RSVP to find the secret location for the meal - say, a rooftop in the city.
October's theme, associated with Day of the Dead, was healing. A spoken-word performer and DJ shared his story of a cousin's gang shooting while guests dined on pumpkin tamales.
Eating and storytelling are natural partners, said caterer Azalina Eusope, who brought dishes from Azalina's Malaysian to December's Feast of Words gathering.
"There is a story behind every food, and especially coming from Malaysia, the food is a blend of three cultures, each with its own history and influences," said Eusope, who prepared coconut shallot rice, and a lentil curry vegetable dish with roasted black sesame seed.