Not in Their Names

Foods, leaks, warping, mold, and fit-to-be-tied residents of the Acme Artists’ Community aren’t the only problems dogging the Near Northwest Arts Council. Poet David Hernandez, one of three vocal condominium owners NNWAC offered to buy out last month, has another bone to pick with the organization. According to Hernandez (who turned down the buyout), NNWAC has been making prominent use of his name and the names of two other artists on grant applications without their knowledge or permission and in spite of the fact that they’re no longer playing a role in NNWAC’s arts-education programs. NNWAC’s Illinois Arts Council grant for 2003-’04 lists Hernandez, painter and illustrator Star Padilla, and muralist Gamaliel Ramirez as paid staff. But Hernandez says none of them did anything there last year.

In October, Hernandez, Padilla, and Ramirez sent a certified letter to NNWAC’s board asking for a meeting to discuss the situation and for copies of any grant applications over the last decade that listed them as staff or board members. “It concerns us that since we three are Latino artists with strong connections to the local Latino community, that our names have been in grant awards for programs and workshops that might never have been delivered,” the letter stated. “We believe that this pattern of using our names in NNWAC documents without our consent contradicts part of NNWAC’s mission statement about empowering artists. That in truth NNWAC disrespects the artists and more often than not we are exploited with very little benefit from any NNWAC programs.”

NNWAC executive director Laura Weathered says Hernandez’s name was on the application “as someone who participated in the previous year.” (Hernandez, a former board member, says he agreed to do a workshop in the spring of 2003 but it never materialized, and it’s been at least three years since he actually did anything with the group.) Board president Steve Kagan says, “My understanding is that we stopped using it when he asked us to.” But Kagan admits that the board has not yet responded to the two-month-old request: “I haven’t reviewed all the grant applications. That may be something we need to do.”

Start Saving Now

New proof that you’d better have a trust fund if you work for a small or midsize arts organization: there’s the usual meager pay and lack of resources, and now a study commissioned by the Illinois Arts Alliance suggests that if you make a career of it you’ll never be able to retire. IAA director Alene Valkanas says only 10 percent of such workers in Illinois get any employer contribution to retirement plans. If you fall in the other 90 percent, when that little nonprofit that’s sucking up your best years is done with you, you’re likely to be flipping burgers to supplement your social security checks–assuming there are any social security checks by then. The retirement data was compiled from a study of executive compensation; the rest of the results will be released at an IAA symposium on retirement benefits scheduled for 9:30 to noon on Thursday, January 13, at the Chicago Cultural Center. It’s free but reservations are required; call 312-855-3105, ext. 10.

Off, Off, Off Loop Theater

Prop Thtr’s off-the-beaten-track Avondale location is looking like a magnet: Curious Theatre Branch, which fled Rogers Park last fall after an unhappy two years, has landed at the Elston Avenue outpost, where it will open Don’t Tell Us We’re Here, a new play by Bryn Magnus, on January 14. Prop’s Scott Vehill says Curious is setting up its office in the building and has committed to doing two or more shows annually, plus the Rhino festival, for at least the next two years. Factory Theater has also moved in, and Dana Friedman and John Kahara’s production of In the Heart of America opens this weekend as part of Prop’s emerging directors series. Aaron Freeman’s The Joy of News, also produced by Prop, will reopen after a two-week hiatus on Saturday, January 15,

in the new studio venue on the lower level of the Apollo Theater.


Will Nedved has been promoted into Cathy Taylor’s old job at Steppenwolf, but he won’t have her title. Taylor, who’s now with the Silverman Group, was director of publicity and communications; Nedved is public relations manager. . . . The Chicago Artists’ Coalition and Loyola University are offering an income-tax workshop for artists from 1 to 5 on Saturday, January 15, at Loyola’s Sullivan Library. A CPA will walk you through tax forms for the self-employed; bring your own pencil. Advance registration is $15 for members of the CAC, $20 for nonmembers. Call 312-670-2060. . . . Illinois Film Office deputy director Bob Hudgins must have been handed a new script. Last month Hudgins said there was no way he’d change his mind about the early retirement he was taking at the end of the year. In the current version, he stays on.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jim Newberry.