The Hairpin Arts Center sits at many intersections: of Kimball, Milwaukee, and Diversey; of Avondale and Logan Square; and of the area’s long-standing Latinx community and the white newcomers/gentrifiers. When Kacie Smith and Betsy Zacsek began working there six months ago as the performing and visual arts directors, respectively, they decided to revamp the seven-year-old arts center’s programming to more accurately reflect the culture of the neighborhood.
This weekend they launch their first big effort: LatinxArts. For an entire month, from September 15 to October 15, the Hairpin will host a series of free exhibitions, performances, and workshops by Latinx artists. There will be an event almost every night, except for Mondays which, Smith jokes, are reserved for cleaning.
“We wanted to do something cool, to work with different artists, to support their vision and dream and give them a cool environment to present their work in,” she says. “We want to bring community together in the space. There aren’t a lot of spaces that cater to the eclectic community of Logan Square and Avondale.” (She is very careful not to use the word “hipster” to describe the newcomers.)
Smith and Zacsek wanted to include a wide range of artists in their programming: storyteller Lily Be, Mike Oquendo of the Mikey O Comedy Show, classical guitarist Ivan Resendiz, visual artists Andrea Perales and Jose Resendiz, and Roberto Pérez and Angel Fuentes, the chefs behind the Puerto Rican culinary group Urban Pilón. There will be screenings of short films and dance performances. On Tuesdays, artists will teach workshops on how to, among other things, sew a huipil (a traditional Central American tunic), decorate sugar skulls, and perform an Aztec dance. Every Saturday night, Pachanka Music Culture will curate a concert of local musicians.
“We want to acknowledge, celebrate, and explore Latino artists making artistic contributions outside of Latino culture,” explains Smith. “It’s not just salsa music!”
Every Wednesday, the Logan Square Neighborhood Association will host a discussion about issues that affect the community, including gentrification and immigration and, now, the repeal of DACA. Smith is most looking forward to a discussion with members of the Logan Square teen council. “They are so smart and savvy and articulate,” she says. “They have so much more awareness of the world than I had at that age.” Juan-Carlos Perez, an artist, will transform the conversations into a community art project, possibly a mural.
Everything’s free, Smith emphasizes, thanks to the generosity of the Chicago Community Trust and the Logan Square Chamber of Arts, the nonprofit that runs the Hairpin. At all events there will be tip jars, and at the concerts there will be a cash bar, with all proceeds going to the artists.
Smith hopes LatinxArts will serve as an indication of what the community can expect from the Hairpin under her and Zacsek’s stewardship. “What I love about this month is all these shows are something I would be going to anyway,” she says. “If I were someone living in the neighborhood and saw the schedule, I’d be like, ‘Oh, my gosh, there’s a Latin funk band on Saturday night! Sign me up!'”
LatinxArts, Fri 9/15-Sun 10/15, various times, Hairpin Arts Center, 2800 N. Milwaukee, 773-661-6361, hairpinartsevents.org, free.