Bull Horn is an avenue to give wings to the stories that matter most. This series, from Red Bull in partnership with the Chicago Reader, invites guest writers, artists, activists, and community members to share their ideas and amplify timely, crucial topics they feel are important now.
Kristen Kaza: In 2016 Elijah and I had an amazing opportunity to take over the space that we now call Reunion. We had found that there was a real lack of workspace and accessible venues. We imagined a more welcoming space that engenders a feeling of home and belonging, and caters more to the unique and specific needs of our intersecting communities of LGBTQ+ folks, BIPOC creatives, and gender-expansive people. Our farewell exhibit pays homage to how the space continually adapted to the needs of the community; you’ll see that shift the intention for the space, and how it was utilized and evolved over six years.
Elijah McKinnon: We’ve amassed a certain type of privilege with the ability to hold space for LGBTQ+ people and communities of color that are interested in exploring alternative ecosystems. There have been sort of waves or phases that mirror our political-social-cultural landscape that really speak to how resilient the community is in Chicago, and how powerful we are together. We inherited Reunion right before the 2016 Trump election, and specifically the Pulse nightclub shooting that took place in Florida. We held space for community during the entire Trump administration, in addition to the war on Black people and queer people and trans people, global uprisings, and yes, the pandemic. Though we began Reunion as a coworking space, we quickly learned that for it to be sustainable, it has to grow with community and in community. We branched out into creating residency programs that spoke to our times, and invited people in on regular programmatic opportunities for them to come in and activate the space in a variety of ways.
Coming into this bookend, we’re looking at an era where the violence and true resilience of this community have had to be wedged up against each other for so long, and the violence is, unfortunately, going to continue. Spaces are going to come and go, but I think that the resilience and love that our community has showcased and wrapped around the space shows how we can continue to do this work in a variety of ways. The experiences and the people and the moments that have filled that space are a true testament to the legacy of community organizing and healing. That’s something that is deeply entrenched in LGBTQ+ communities and BIPOC communities, specifically Black communities, because the only other option is to just embrace violence as normal. Reunion has contributed to a history of holding space for people to be their authentic selves—which I think is a throughway line to change the world.
KK: This was always a project that we aimed to adapt to the needs of the community, and so this is a good thing that we are able to transition. A farewell is a celebration, a farewell is an acknowledgment of what has come to pass and where we’re headed. We hope people will take the inspiration and some of the skills they’ve developed and the confidence they’ve been able to hone into their future endeavors. Reunion is known as a physical space, but I think it is also a practice.
EM: A key piece of the farewell exhibit is inviting a lot of key stakeholders in our community who have helped hold and sustain space over the years. What’s exciting is the exhibit—which will feature photography, artwork, ephemera, and all the wonders that have been shared over the years—sort of looks at a year over year circular exchange with our community, and how the people in our community have helped us build. By exhibiting and sharing various different elements throughout the exhibit, we can signify what our landscape has been over the last six years while also highlighting the joy and commitment to creative expression. It’s going to be a beautiful show.
Reunion was founded by Kristen Kaza and Elijah McKinnon as a coworking space and incubator centering LGBTQ+ and BIPOC creatives in Chicago. After a remarkable six-year run, the two are closing the space, but not before celebrating the beauty and accomplishments of the space and its community with an exhibit called “The Sweetest Gift: A Farewell To Reunion Chicago,” which runs November 11-20. Co-curated by Reunion event coordinator Omar Dyette and Ciera McKissick of AMFM Gallery, the exhibit will touch on moments throughout Reunion’s history and spotlight some of the space’s key contributors and events, including a wellness day and a comedy showcase before culminating in a closing ceremony. To find more information and purchase tickets, visit www.reunionchicago.com.