Artists Exploring We Will Chicago
We Will Chicago was adopted by the Chicago Plan Commission on February 16, 2023. The three-year planning endeavor establishes a citywide roadmap for equity and resiliency.
From its initial stages artists have been an integral part of the We Will Chicago planning process. The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) has commissioned five projects from artists across the city to continue engaging residents in the themes and goals of the plan.
In 2023, members of the public were invited to participate in conversations, performances, workshops, film screenings and more. Learn more about the selected artists and projects below.
Peregrine Bermas created Freedom Fighter Herbs as a mutual aid effort to provide locally grown medicinal plants to community members impacted by systemic issues such as lack of access to healthy foods, chronic disease and inequitable policing. Through We Will Chicago, Bermas plans to explore public health and safety by developing tools, resources and educational programs in partnership with the #LetUsBreatheCollective. This alliance of artists and activists works to increase access to resources for wellness and protection imagining a world without prisons and police.
Visual artist Jonathan Castillo's work honors the spaces and people that provide services in Chicago's diverse neighborhoods. A former Diane Dammeyer fellow in the photographic arts and social issues, Castillo's We Will Chicago project will explore how small businesses contribute to Chicago's South and West Side. Through environmental portraits, photographic interiors and interviews, Castillo seeks to build positive narratives about entrepreneurship in underserved neighborhoods. In 2024, an exhibition of his work will be made available to the public.
Artists Natalie Perkins and Yaritza Guillen are experienced organizers and gardeners. With a passion for community building, Perkins and Guillen worked with residents of South Shore to construct a weather-adaptable pergola at the South Merrill community garden, an area protected by the NeighborSpace land trust. Through an intergenerational design process, the team built a public green space that supports We Will Chicago's goals of environmental justice and resiliency.
Congo Square Theatre Company's upcoming Celebration of Healing initiative builds around the world premiere of “How Blood Go” by Lisa Langford, which will run through April 23, 2023, at Steppenwolf’s 1700 Theater at 1700 N. Halsted St. “How Blood Go” analyzes the past, present and future of racial inequality in America’s healthcare system, particularly for Black communities. Supported by We Will Chicago, the Celebration of Healing included film screenings, health resource fairs, and community conversations exploring the themes of social justice, health and well-being that run through Langford's play.
Mobile Makers’ is developed a one-day-only block party that will run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 13 at 1757 N. Kimball Ave., in the alley between the Kimball Arts Center and the 606 Trail. Mobile Makers mission is to create spaces for all to make, play, learn new skills and hold community conversations about design. Supported by We Will Chicago in partnership with neighborhood organizations, the block party included workshops and activities for all ages.
We Will Chicago Artist-Organizers & Honey Pot Performance Team (2021/2022)
In 2021, Honey Pot Performance (HPP) was selected by the City of Chicago to serve as the lead public engagement artists on We Will Chicago. HPP is a collective of artists inspired by the Fifth City model, a radical community experiment from the 1960s-1980s in Garfield Park. Their work centers on consensus-building strategies and focusing on community members as leaders, experts, and problem solvers.
Artist and organizer teams were specifically aligned with the seven core pillar issues of the We Will Chicago: Arts & Culture, Economic Development, Environment, Climate & Energy, Housing & Neighborhoods, Lifelong Learning, Public Health & Safety, Transportation & Infrastructure. Artist teams will engage with the community in a two-part approach. Teams in community anchor hubs address issues in assigned neighborhoods throughout the city, and a mobile team covers the remaining communities. Each team will have its own programming—workshops, conversations, design exercises, knowledge and skill shares, etc.—to activate the ideas and concepts that are most important to its community’s interests.
Following a period of learning, experimenting, making, and dialogue, each hub generated an action plan and creative outputs based on the core ideas, solutions, and recommendations that emerged from their time together.