Chicago Loop Alliance ACTIVATE events feature art in its natural habitat

A representative from ZipCar (left), Marla Gamze of Chicago Loop Alliance (center)& Marty Stern of US Equities (right) were among those who put the event together.

By Vince Wallace (@SouthChiRepublc)


The other day I read a magnificent article by writer, reporter and well-reputed “St. Louis commenter” Sarah Kendzior on the dangers of using art as a tool to cover over so-called urban blight.  Her recent work has included a lot of incisive commentary on the cultural fallout of economic inequality.  About a North Philadelphia art installation which proports to tackle the dilapidated area’s aesthetic by essentially covering it over she writes:

“People” are those who can afford to view poverty through the lens of aesthetics as they pass it by.  Urban decay becomes a set piece to be remodeled or romanticised.

She offers a lot to think about in terms of how modernizes often fail to build inclusiveness into the mix as they conceptualize urban spaces and design a city’s future.  In this case, art is being used – probably unwittingly, but used nonetheless – to assist the nefarious project of gentrification.  It’s being used to cover over the process of pushing out people who have resided there for generations to make room for a new, but strangely familiar brand of hipster appropriators and colonizers.


In other words, it’s a pretty bad rap for art.

Taking up Sarah’s challenge to abandon this kind of superficiality and think about how art can, and should be used to bring people together instead of rip neighborhoods apart, I can’t help but think about the work of the Chicago Loop Alliance and their ACTIVATE series of downtown events.  Tonight they will transform a downtown alley into a space for artists from around Chicago.  Some of the artists are established, some lesser-known.  Some are artists of color and those representing various minority communities around town.  Not enough, but some.  And that representation is growing as the event series becomes more popular.

The last ACTIVATE party (that’s really all it is, just a party y’all) took an alley section on Monroe between State and Wabash that Chicagoan have passed by perhaps thousands of times in our daily ramblings and made it into a space inviting all Chicagoans to enjoy some interesting (and sometimes a bit oddball) diverse multimedia sculptures, a few drinks, a DJ who could go from playing one track of ambient beats facilitating conversations between people who rarely get the chance to stop and talk to one another to spreading the gospel of Phantogram the next.  It was a good show.  It was art, and music, and business-people chatting with baristas, Occupy protesters having a cold one with non-profit pros.  It wasn’t quite the North side hugging it out with the South side or the Gold Coast discovering the city west of Ashland.  Not yet.  But it’s getting there.

And now I still pass by that alley a couple times a week as I have for years.  But instead of looking past it, it’s that place where they had that party that time and I met some very interesting people.  Because why should cultural memory necessarily be connected places built for the purpose like Millennium Park or Wrigley?  They can happen anywhere really.

Tonight they’ll be doing it again on State St between Lake and Randolph, 5 pm til 10.  21 and over can RSVP for a complimentary drink ticket, or bottled water for those of us inclined to temperance in our off hours.  Why not stop by?  Everyone’s invited, yes even hipsters.  That’s the point.


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Charlene Mitchell author of "The Fight to Free Angela Davis" and "Equality, Its Time Has Come" will be honored Saturday.

By Vince Wallace (@SouthChiRepublc)

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By Vince Wallace (@SouthChiRepublc)

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Last Thursday the forecast for Chicago was snow once again.  It’s late March and people who live in the city know the drill.  The sparkling white dusting we get in December soon turns to piles and puddles of frozen slush. We spend January and February shoveling walkways, salting the walk, day after day a pure contest of wills between the unwarranted fury of old man winter and a city determined to get where it’s going and do what needs to get done.  It’s tireless work, and by late February we’re looking at travel brochures.  A glimmer of hope appears in March.  Briefly things warm up, the slush thaws, we feel spring is on the way.  And then, more snow.

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President Obama Is Throwing a HUGE Party for Corporations. Here’s Why You Should Be Invited

"Sorry, you're not on the guest list.  Bye-bye now."

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More smart (and funny) reaction to the Syrian weapons agreement

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A friend sent me this comic on Facebook from

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No losers in Syrian weapons deal. Just a lot of sore winners

On Sept 7, Vatican faithful answered Pope Francis' call to pray for peace in Syria.  Today have  their prayers been answered?  (FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)

On Sept 7, Vatican faithful answered Pope Francis’ call to pray for peace in Syria. Today have their prayers been answered? (FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)

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By Vince Wallace (@SouthChiRepublc)

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If you didn’t see any of this on the evening news, Congratulations!  Now you know why I write this blog thing.

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Dr. James Naismith. Inventor of the game of basketball and of the football helmet. Aren’t I a dapper chap?

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Another blow to republican racism denial

Another blow to republican racism denial

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