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Chicago Fringe Festival Finds a New Home in Jefferson Park

By Heather Cherone | February 26, 2013 7:26am

JEFFERSON PARK — The Chicago Fringe Fest's plans to move to the Northwest Side after three years in Pilsen will give the area's burgeoning arts scene a shot of adrenaline, supporters said Monday.

"Jefferson Park is the best fit for us," said Adrienne Guldin, one of the founders of the 3-year-old festival and its business manager. "It has a beautiful, upcoming arts scene."

The festival will be a great addition to the arts scene in Jefferson Park and Portage Park, which includes the Gift Theatre and the Filament Theatre Ensemble, Ald. John Arena (45th) said.

"We really want this area to become a destination for arts and culture lovers," Arena said.

Although the festival originally planned to move from neighborhood to neighborhood each year, Guldin said it will stay on the Northwest Side for at least the next several years, adding that organizers don't have the "time or energy" to handle the logistics a roving festival would require.

"Everyone in Jefferson Park is so excited," Guldin said. "That has really convinced us that this is the right place for us. It will help the long-term success of the festival as well as the neighborhood."

Arena said he would welcome the festival making Jefferson Park its permanent home.

"We want to convince people traveling through our area to stop and see what we have to offer," Arena said.

Fringe festivals take place all over the country, with many of the shows emphasizing an experimental, avant-garde and do-it-yourself ethos. Part of the mission of Chicago's festival is to work in artistically underserved communities, which is part of what makes Jefferson Park a good fit, Guldin said.

The festival, which recently received a grant from the MacArthur Fund for Arts & Culture at the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, will feature 50 performances ranging from puppetry and drama to sketch comedy and music. The first 13 spots were awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, and filled up in two minutes, Guldin said.

The rest of the spots will be awarded by lottery, with 86 applicants hoping a bingo ball with their number will be pulled out of a barrel at the festival's lottery party at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the Gale Street Inn, 4914 N. Milwaukee Ave. A number of spots are earmarked for non-white performers, older artists and those with mental and physical handicaps, Guldin said.

The festival is scheduled to take place from Aug. 29 to Sept. 8 at five or six venues in Jefferson Park, Guldin said.

The theme of this year's festival is "Pack a Lunch," and artists can enter a contest to design the logo for the festival. Entries should reflect the experience of seeing more than one show, since many people attend the festival with schedules and logistics mapped out for an hours-long odyssey, according to the rules.