Notes from the Cultural Front – A Call to Action

CHICAGO–(ENEWSPF)–February 23, 2017.  In 1987 The Center for International Performance and Exhibition was founded by Jim De Jong and Marguerite Horberg. We came together to create an multi-arts tribute to the first, and much beloved African-American Mayor Harold Washington. Crucial to Washington’s impact was the inclusion of ordinary Chicagoans in his administration (including cultural workers)  and his ability to lead a multi-racial coalition of citizens from every corner in the city. The All Chicago Artist Tribute to Harold Washington-our first event, set the standard and purpose for our work thereafter.

1n 1991, The Center for International Performance and Exhibition opened HotHouse in Wicker Park with the Women of the New Jazz Festival

With this two day celebration  ( Sheila Jordan, Jane Bunnett, Dierdre Murray, Amina Claudine Myers, Samana, and others), HotHouse endeavored to bolster the critical acclaim of  women in the Jazz world which remarkably had had little efforts to that effect previously. The endeavor was met with both critical acclaim and snide remarks – with one male critic inquiring “if this was a para-paraplegic lesbo fest”?

In short order, HotHouse on Milwaukee became a crossroads for many people organizing across issues and artistic disciplines. When refugees poured into Chicago fleeing the Contra Wars in Nicaragua and El Salvador, HotHouse became a key home for events to support them. While the anti-apartheid movement gained international strength, HotHouse welcomed the ANC and South African Black Jazz artists to Chicago alongside with the many African-American and allied solidarity activists working to Free Nelson Mandela. Our work alongside Puerto Rican activists on Division Street, anti-gentrification forces in Wicker Park and other civic struggles but HotHouse in position to be a hub of what is now known as “intersectionality”.

Most recently our series the WPA 2.0, a brand new deal and the Global Voices Series launched at Alhambra last year advances these same core principles.

In short, our work over thirty years has been solely dedicated to an internationalist, inclusive and holistic set of values that places the least among us as the most important and cherishes first voice narratives from primarily non-commercial sectors. Our work has always been dedicated to working with immigrants, aligned with the working class and finding opportunities to present the debut of artists from around the world, or otherwise aligning with activists in the public sphere to broaden opportunities and make policy to enfranchise the most marginal among us.

We have witnessed for all these years the transformative power of nurturing cultural expression and forging cross cultural alliances. We know for a fact that this work has profoundly impacted our civic fabric- allowing for a much more just, conscious and egalitarian city. In fact our urban environments while segregated and imperfect are still a beacon for the world.

We cannot abide the recent attacks made by the Trump administration on every value we hold dear. While I  personally and elsewhere join others in resistance actions, in my role of Executive Director of HotHouse I urge you take action on the pointed attacks against arts and culture including the prohibition of people from entering the country from the banned 7 countries.
Our colleagues in New York are organizing a tour of musicians from the banned seven countries – The link below is for a campaign to help fund their tour. Please consider making a donation to them.
The National endowment for the Arts is also on the chopping block. Please see the OP Ed from it’s director here and connect to action to keep it alive


We know that our base is an activist base and that your are already doing everything you can as part of the organized effort to fight against these attacks. If you need a link to take action -here is one we like

In our thirty years we have seen many intractable struggles become resolved. We know that the slogan from our first HotHouse t-shirt ” El Pueblo Unido Jamas Sera Vencido!” is our path forward out of these dark times.  We know we cannot wish or lampoon our way to victory but have to work hard to get organized and join a collective effort aimed at defeating reactionary policies while uplifting the models for the better world we know is possible.  HotHouse intends to continue to respond with creative opportunities to connect with you. Thank you for the opportunity to serve in this deeply meaningful capacity. Venceremos!

HotHouse programs are funded in part with support from The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation and The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation

The Chicago Guantanamo Blues Exchange is supported in part with support by the U.S. State Department and the Oppenheimer Family Foundation

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