Home Sweet Home - MAAF installation & removal

*UPDATE: October 06, 2014 Fishman Steps down from I AM Logan Square by Darryl Holliday, DNAinfo Chicago. Although the article does not state that the petition to remove Fishman from their board, it did have an affect and the neighborhood may have a better understanding of the arts organization that supposedly represents us. One small victory for Logan Square!

Articles Written about Home Sweet Home:

At the Milwaukee Avenue Arts Fest, a landlord plays censor to a Logan Square artist's work By Deanna Issacs, Chicago Reader

First It Was The Artists: The Myth Of “Nice” Gentrification In Art By , Chicago Literati

New City Art - news article By Matt Morris

Milwaukee Avenue Arts Fest Yanks Work Critical of M. Fishman By Darryl Holliday, DNAinfo Chicago


Update 06/29/14: My show was removed by Mark Fishman, a board member of I Am Logan Square, sponsor/host of the Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival (MAAF). Yes, some of my pieces in the show called him out directly as a person who displaces people and I knew that he was somehow involved with I Am Logan Square, but I did not realize he was a board member and made the final curatorial decisions about the festival.

Here is my account of the events leading up to the show, in an effort to be transparent:

  • It was suggested to me in mid-May by someone at a neighborhood meeting about affordable housing that I show my artwork on the topic at MAAF. My work as an artist has been exploring the topic of home vs. house for a few years. As a life-long renter and person who has moved 24 times, the issue of affordable housing in near and dear to my being. What better place then the local neighborhood art festival to show my work?
  • On May 27th, I saw a posting on Chicago Artist Resource that MAAF was still looking for artists. I sent them a link to my website with a general inquiry about wanting to create a collaborative/community or site-specific installation. I figured I wouldn't hear anything, especially since the festival was only a few weeks out. As an artist, I've sent out countless requests to show my work, filled out applications to many calls for artists and have been met with regular rejection. It’s typical in the art world.
  • On June 2nd, I received a reply from the curators of the show stating they would love to have me create an installation, but were still sorting out the art spaces they would be using for the festival. Upon acceptance, I started my typical idea generation process, keeping it loose and open to how to create something impactful in a very short time frame. Sketching, thinking and researching.
  • On June 9th, the curators showed me three potential spaces. They seemed to be uncertain of which ones would actually be available to use. They gave me the rundown of the rules and I was told that I would have to sign an agreement with the landlord of the spaces. No money or materials would be given to visual artists, just space to show. Which, as an emerging artist, is all that we can hope for sometimes. It fully dawned on me after the tour and conversation with the curators that the spaces all shown to me were owned by Mark Fishman, a local developer who is a major topic of discussion amongst the affordable housing movement in Logan Square.
  • Between June 9th & June 16th, I began to further explore ideas and had captured beautiful architectural shots of buildings that had recently been acquired or in the process of being acquired by M. Fishman Realty Co. They were buildings that evictions and displacement of residents had occurred and or where the process was beginning to occur. This is all public knowledge and open city data provides information on real estate transactions and the courts do on evictions. I had learned about the evictions and displacement of tenants from actions taken by the Metropolitan Tenants Organizations and though conversations with tenants directly affected by the purchasing of their buildings.
  • On June 16th, (11 days before the festival began) I was informed via email that I was given space 2779 N. Milwaukee Ave. My installation was in the rear of the space and a group show would be in the storefront and main area of the space.
  • On June 17th, I met with the curators and given keys to 2779 N. Milwaukee Ave. While in the space, it dawned on me that above my head were the actual apartments of people that were displaced from 3335 W. Diversey Ave., a former SRO (single room occupancy), a building that I had already photographed and was planning to incorporate into my installation. The notion of site-specific took on a whole new level for me, it seemed almost serendipitous.
  • From June 16th - 26th, I worked on the site-specific installation and decided to call it "Home Sweet Home", honoring the sanctuary of home and the disruption that occurs when one is evicted or forced to move because of circumstances that are out of an individual’s control. A memorial of sorts.
  • June 26th, the evening before the festival began, I installed my show in the designated space with the help of a friend. The curators installed the group show in the front part of the space that same evening.
  • The morning of June 27th, I received an email from one of the curators to give him a call. I called him promptly and we had a good discussion about them potentially censoring the show, because M. Fishman was donating the space and the work would upset him. That curator clearly did not want to censor me, but felt that they were endangering their relationship with the sponsor. We agreed to pass this issue of censorship on to the I Am Logan Square board. The curators are not employees of I Am Logan Square, they are contracted to curate art for MAAF and their gallery space. I waited the rest of the morning and afternoon, anxiously, for a call from the board of I Am Logan Square. I never received one.
  • Around 6 pm of June 27th, I headed to the festival to find that my show had been removed from the space at 2779 N. Milwaukee. One of the curators was there and informed me that the board President was trying to contact me all afternoon, but we realized he had my contact (email and daytime phone) wrong. The I Am Logan Square board President, Geary Younker, and I met at 2779 N. Milwaukee Ave. and had an amicable conversation about the removal of the work without my consent. In this conversation, I was informed that Mark Fishman actually sits on their board and threatened to not open the space at all, which would have made the group show unavailable to the public. I agreed that my intentions were not to shut the space down or impede the showing of other artwork, but to create a climate of dialogue about what is currently happening in the neighborhood as the gentrification and displacement of people is hitting a peak.
  • Around 8 pm of June 27th, I returned to the festival to retrieve my artwork that was removed by members of Mark Fishman's crew, as disclosed to me by the curators and Geary Younker. It was all intact and packed in a garbage bag and secured in an empty, locked space next door. I never signed any agreement with I Am Logan Square or M. Fishman Realty Co. regarding showing my work at MAAF.

My next steps:

1) To get this work shown at a new venue(s) in the neighborhood.

2) To attend I Am Logan Square's next board meeting to talk about my censorship.

Opens tonight @ 5 pm!  Runs 10am to 10 pm Saturday & Sunday.

 @ 2779 N. Milwaukee Ave. Chicago, IL  during Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival

Awesome shout out from LoganSquarist!

Artist Statement:

It is the intangibles that make a home and community. The memories, shared emotions, feelings of security, sanctuary and safety. The laughs, the cries, building of trust, the forming of relationships with respect, love and sharing. Tolerance, acceptance and ability to ask for help. Comfort, familiarity and dependability all ease the stress of uncertainty.

Discord shakes these intangibles and makes them seem out of our reach, or maybe that we are undeserving of them. This discord is pervasive in our culture that focuses on capital gain at the expense of others discomfort. This discord is happening right now for many in our community, Logan Square, as their homes are disrupted and the community is gentrified without input from its residents.

For the last 6 months, I've become heavily involved in organizing around the issue of affordable housing that is disappearing from our neighborhood, Logan Square. I've met people who have been part of mass evictions from their homes, seen rents skyrocket and the demographics shift dramatically in certain areas. This deeply concerns me and leaves me with a heavy feeling of loss, but hopeful that action can be taken to slow this process.

Thank you for stopping by and please contact me at www.amiesell.com if you have any questions or want to join in the actions to save and create more affordable housing in Logan Square.

Art included in this Installation:

A. (4) Large White Panels – Digital architectural photos printed on fleece blankets

B. (1) Chair – Found object with cross-stich

C. (1) Collage – Vellum, B&W photo transfers and acrylic paint