A Year In Review

It’s almost July 2015. That means it’s been almost one year since I started this project. What a year!  As I near the halfway point of the project both in time and interviews, I’m taking the time to reflect on the past 11 months.

It’s been a whirlwind of great conversations. At its core, I’ve been having amazing talks with women in a variety of fields. I’ve talked to painters, circus performers, cartoonists, singers, dancers, and much more. I’m so impressed with all the work that is being done here in Chicago. People are creating such incredible art here in Chicago, pushing so many limits. It makes me even happier to live here in Chicago. I can’t wait to talk to women in the year ahead about their awesome work.

In all my interviews, I always try to ask: “How do you think Chicago has impacted you as an artist?” Most people’s response has been “community.” They talk about how supportive and open the Chicago artistic community has been to them. It’s not easy being an artist in Chicago for sure, but there’s fellow artists who will support you. That’s pretty amazing. Just from working on this project alone, I feel that sense of community. Now I suppose I’m talking about a lot of communities since I’m talking to artists in so many diverse fields. I’ve been so amazed at how so many people have been willing to share their work and time with me. Many have opened up their homes and studios to show me their work. They’ve also shared their networks, recommending that I talk to other artists doing thrilling work. Many of my interviews are with these shared contacts, recommendations, and more.  

As a result, I’ve completed 24 interviews as of June 13, 2015. Originally, I had intended only to do an interview a month. Well, that idea has flown out the window and I’m totally cool with that. I know that I can’t talk to all the artists in Chicago but I’ll try to make a tiny dent in the world. I aim to have 50 interviews by July 2016 but it may surpass that. (I will have to impose a limit though. Time might be that limit).

The project has introduced me to a whole world of events and institutions all across the city. I recently went to my first Chicago Zine Fest and CAKE (Chicago Alternative Comics Expo) and they were so much fun. I can’t wait to go back next year. I’ve been to new galleries throughout the city too. I’ve also been more diligent about reading the newspaper and magazines to find out what is going on. That’s awesome in itself. I know that I’ll be attending even more cultural events around the city, getting to know new spaces and people.

I’m also pretty pleased that the project has taken me all over the city. I’ve been as far north as Skokie and south/ west as Beverly. I’ve spent some time in Logan Square area but I’ve also been in Humboldt Park, Gold Coast, Little Village, and much more. I can’t wait to spend more time exploring new parts of the city. I want this project to be inclusive of all the parts of the city. At the end, I want to create a map to show where I held interviews in Chicago.

One side effect of this project is that I think I’ve gotten bolder at talking to new people. Not just in the sense of talking to the folks who have agreed to participate, but in terms of networking. In high school, I was usually quiet in classrooms; it was often hard for me to articulate my thoughts into spoken words. In our yearbook, we had a section for “Where will they be 10 years later?” and my classmates wrote that I’d be an award winning speaker. Now, I didn’t take this as a slight but rather as encouragement; they thought I had important things to say. Now, I’ve spent the last decade becoming much more comfortable talking in front of rooms. However, it has only been very recently that I have been able to network without breaking into a nervous sweat. I’m not sure why. Maybe this project has made me bolder by virtue of necessity. If I’m going to talk to people about their work, I have to actually talk to them. Now I give my business card out to lots of people. I’ve gotten better at conversing with people than I ever thought I would be. I also cold email artists all the time if I don’t know a contact that can connect me to them. This is such a world away from the girl in high school or even college.

And apparently, I’ll also be reading Moby Dick as a result of the project.

Those are just a few thoughts about this project as it nears its second year.