Art in Action Revived by University of Chicago Students

By Sam Cholke on February 22, 2013 6:11am 

 Erika Rist, a third-year philosophy student, is one of five University of Chicago students at the Woodlawn Collaborative working to bring back Art in Action, an art and activism festival.
Erika Rist, a third-year philosophy student, is one of five University of Chicago students at the Woodlawn Collaborative working to bring back Art in Action, an art and activism festival.
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DNAInfo/Sam Cholke

WOODLAWN — After a two-year hiatus, a group of University of Chicago students is reviving Art in Action, a festival that brought together a wide range of art activists in Woodlawn.

“On the face of it, it’s a wonderful day,” said Erika Rist, a third-year philosophy and human rights student at the University of Chicago and one of five students to take over planning for Art in Action.

The event allows Woodlawn and Hyde Park residents to get a sampling of arts programs across the South Side, like Southside Scribblers, a creative writing program for at-risk youth interested in poetry.

“They enable these kids that have a lot to say. They give them the space to write poetry,” Rist said, adding that about a dozen groups will host activities. “There are all these groups that if you’re not active at the university, you wouldn’t know about them.”

This year, the event will move out of Woodlawn and over to the university’s Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St., on May 18. The community is invited to help complete a huge paint-by-number mural and learn acting exercises to combat stereotypes about Latinos with Latinos Progresando.

It’s also good for the groups to know that they “share tensions,” said Rist, who is being groomed to take over the Woodlawn Collaborative next year.

The last Art in Aciton hosted by the Woodlawn Collaborative took place in 2010, a hiatus blamed on the temporary leadership of student-run groups in Hyde Park and Woodlawn.

“No one is taught to take over things when people graduate,” Rist said with a note of regret. “Nothing’s passed along — some of it is just laziness.”

Rist said the organization has been revived with a new dedication.

“We are like a cult,” she said. “If you’re in it, you’re dedicated to it.”

The Woodlawn Collaborative is ostensibly not a student organization and is not controlled by the university, which has allowed it to more directly address the town and gown tensions between the university and the surrounding communities.

“We are not acting as the university, but trying to communicate that there are people in the university who understand that wrongs occurred,” Rist said of a past history of divisions, particularly between Hyde Park and Woodlawn. “We’re cognizant that there is this disconnect from very bad policies and we’re trying to bridge that.”

Hosting the event at the Logan Center, built as the university’s grandest building open to the community, is a nod towards groups like the Woodlawn Collaborative and the university’s renewed interest in reconnecting with residents.

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