NoNation: Call for Transparency and Accuracy of "Equity Arts" Goals

NoNation: Call for Transparency and Accuracy of "Equity Arts" Goals

November 8, 2022
Signatures: 988Next Goal: 1,000
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Why this petition matters

Started by Valentina Amaya

**{\}() {\}∆‡!(){\} is NOT requesting funding at this time**

{\}() {\}∆‡!(){\} responds to Equity Arts’ Public Statement shared on social media on October 28, 2022:

Equity Arts is currently fundraising to buy the Lubinski Building (located in 1542 & 1550 N. Milwaukee Avenue.), where several organizations including Heaven Gallery, LVL3, TriTriangle, and {\}() {\}∆‡!(){\} currently reside. Their stated intention is to buy the building to save it from being bought by real estate developers who presumably would displace the arts organizations and artists living and working there. Ironically, their success would ensure the displacement of {\}() {\}∆‡!(){\} and TriTriangle, two experimental art organizations that have worked and resided in the building for more than ten years. 

According to their website, “Equity Arts is a place-keeping project aimed at creating restorative space to advance racial equity while cultivating and preserving the arts from displacement.” They continue: ”This building will be a physical acknowledgement to the arts and the culture that has flourished within this building and neighborhood.” This all stands in direct contrast to the active invisibilization and devaluation of the artistic work of building residents TriTriangle and {\}() {\}∆‡!(){\}. Despite their aforementioned claims, there has never been a mention regarding our existence nor our work in their plans or promotions. 

Equity Arts presents itself as “a catalyst for social justice and neighborhood transformation” and uses the language of equity and social justice to fundraise for something that runs counter to these values. Equity Arts is manipulating funders and the arts community by framing their project as a social justice mission while contradicting their stated goals through their actions. Equity Arts has been actively co-opting  social justice narratives and weaponizing them against {\}() {\}∆‡!(){\}, Tritriangle and actual social justice itself. Equity Arts has used their relationships with BIPOC artists and leaders in a misleading way without valuing their input and the needs of this community. 

Equity Arts’ actions emerge from a single person’s vision for a cultural enterprise that is not proven to be invested in community buy-in or social justice goals. In a recent interview, Alma Weiser, President of Equity Arts said to the Chicago Reader, “I almost feel like with all of the labor that I have done for the past five years, I should be able to decide what I want to develop.” Our goal here is not to discredit this person’s or their supporter’s vision, but to call for transparency and accuracy of their intent. Enlisting the support of BIPOC artists while misleading the community as to the actual foreseen impact on the people  is not what cultural equity and social justice looks like. 

We think that envisioning a more just arts ecosystem in Chicago requires critical self reflection and understanding that this goal is bigger than any single organization, or any one person. Admission when, however noble, the ends don’t justify the means. It requires generous listening, humility, and sincere inclusion of  multiple relevant voices in order to craft a collective vision. We recognize the work of so many individuals in Chicago who are doing the radical work of imagining a more equitable and accessible arts sector here. The disingenuous efforts of Equity Arts are an insult to their work. 

Alternative art spaces come and go. {\}() {\}∆‡!(){\} has only been able to survive during its 12 year history because of its hybrid model that combines artist housing (through its residency program) and a programming venue all in one place. Equity Arts has defended its decision to exclude {\}() {\}∆‡!(){\} and TriTriangle on the basis that Equity Art’s mission does not include artist housing. For {\}() {\}∆‡!(){\}, separating artist housing from its mission would make the organization completely nonviable. 

While we never received an invitation to participate on our own terms with respect to our autonomy over our platform, that possibility never existed. Their recent public statement reveals a truth never disclosed to us, reading: “since Equity Arts’ inception artist housing has not been part of our mission.” Still seeking engagement, our attempt to attend their “Equity Arts Pre-Launch” on 11/7/2022 was met with our immediate removal and threats of police enforcement. Regardless, we fundamentally seek the respect for our autonomy over our home and as directors of {\}() {\}∆‡!(){\} as we have seen for the past 12 years.

We call for:

Equity Arts to stop fundraising in the name of cultural equity before doing the radical work of articulating (with community feedback) what a vision for an equitable art ecosystem would look like in Chicago.

Equity Arts to stop invisibilizing {\}() {\}∆‡!(){\} and TriTriangle from their narrative and the building’s and neighborhood’s history of experimental artist-run art spaces.

Equity Arts to rearticulate their mission and vision to more accurately represent their goals to the public, to the community of artists that they claim to support, and to potential funders.

The art’s funding community at large to examine and modify how their structures enable and reproduce the behavior described above. Too many people reasonably expect substantial rewards from investments in performative viability over the expenses of authenticity and accountability. 


{\}() {\}∆‡!(){\} (Amaya Torres, Aza Greenlee, and associated Artists in Residence)

{\}() {\}∆‡!(){\} is an artist-run organization that serves as an artistic platform for experimental cultural production through performance art, language, image making, sound, presentations, screenings, workshops and its Artist-in-residence program (founded in 2015). Since its inception in 2010, {\}() {\}∆‡!(){\} has fostered a local and global arts network while contributing to the accessible exchange of ideas across borders. {\}() {\}∆‡!(){\} is deeply concerned with critical concepts of origin, the affirmation of agency, intimacy, spontaneity and collaboration in how art is created, discussed and experienced. {\}() {\}∆‡!(){\} has been a welcoming and supporting space for BIPOC, trans, queer, working-class, immigrant artists and exiled artists, enabling a space in which anyone and everyone can present new ideas, experiment with their practice. All of this has been possible because {\}() {\}∆‡!(){\} has retained total autonomy during its twelve year history.

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Signatures: 988Next Goal: 1,000
Support now