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Petition Urges Logan Square Landlord to Leave Neighborhood Arts Group

By Darryl Holliday | August 26, 2014 8:34am
 Amie Sell will display her art at several local galleries eager to provide her a space this summer and fall after her work was removed from the Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival in June.
Amie Sell will display her art at several local galleries eager to provide her a space this summer and fall after her work was removed from the Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival in June.
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DNainfo/Darryl Holliday

LOGAN SQUARE — Tension continues to build between Logan Square residents and the development strategy of one of the neighborhood’s most high-profile landlords, Mark Fishman, owner of M. Fishman & Company.

A petition to remove Fishman from the board of the I AM Logan Square arts coalition circulated last week and had 207 signatures as of Monday. The petition is addressed to I AM Logan Square president Geary Yonker, requesting that “I AM Logan Square begin to repair its reputation with Logan Square by immediately removing Mark Fishman, Treasurer, from its board.”

"There is growing vocal discontent about Mark Fishman’s control and usage of the Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival (MAAF) as a tool to increase his substantial development and real estate holdings," Logan Square artist Amie Sell wrote as the cause for her petition.

Fishman owns at least 22 properties in Logan Square and is a founding member and treasurer of I AM Logan Square, which sponsors the annual Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival.

Fishman has not responded to several calls, emails and messages for comment.

Before the June Milwaukee Avenue fest opened this year, an exhibit by Sell was taken down under a Fishman representative's direction. The exhibit featured a collection of photos and text by Sell critical of Fishman and gentrification, set up in one of the landlord's own donated properties.

Sell said she began circulating the petition after, she charges, I AM Logan Square violated their mission statement, which includes supporting art and promoting cultural development in Logan Square. She also hopes to keep affordable housing in the neighborhood — including The Milshire, a single room occupancy facility at 2525 N. Milwaukee Ave. that Fishman is eyeing, according to public documents.

Residents of the Milshire have been asked to leave.

I AM president Yonker said he sympathized with signees of the petition but said a unilateral removal of Fishman wasn’t allowed according to the group’s by-laws — he also said the votes required to remove Fishman “aren’t there,” as such a vote requires the support of at least four of the organization’s seven board members.

“After what happened, of course a lot of people, internally, on the board are asking their own questions,” Yonker said. “If you have a member of the board who acts unilaterally … in a manner I think was detrimental to organization, it raises a lot of questions.”

As for I AM Logan Square, Yonker said the calls for Fishman to be removed falls heaviest on the board's other members, many of them longtime Logan Square residents and business owners.

“Quite frankly, if [Fishman] was ever going to part ways with I AM Logan Square it would be of his own volition. That’s the political reality of it,” Yonker, a 12-year-resident of the neighborhood, said. “The people this has affected the most are the people who care most about the organization and do most of the work. I would like to think I’m one of those people who cares and tries to have the organization do the right thing.”

I AM Logan Square typically meets quarterly but doesn’t have an upcoming meeting scheduled due to a recent family emergency, Yonker said.

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