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Urbanphile Essays

April 26th, 2009 1 comment

I would like to direct readers to series of lengthy posts by Aaron M. Renn at Urbanphile. I am curious how well his thoughts hold up from a marginalized point-of-view. 

Chicago: A Declaration of Independence

Chicago: Reconnecting the Hinterland
Part 1A – Metropolitan Connections
Part 1B – High Speed Rail
Part 2A – Onshore Outsourcing
Part 2B – On Innovation

Panel Discussion: The Invisible Artist – Creators From Chicago’s Southside

April 9th, 2009 2 comments


 

On March 26th the School of the Art Institute held a panel discussion to “address perceptions that artists on Chicago’s South Side are under-known and undervalued or, at worst, intentionally ignored” as Jason Foumberg so aptly states in his piece titled “Why Have There Been No Great South Side Artists?” at Newcity Art.

Panelists included:

  • Andre Guichard, artist and owner of Gallery Guichard
  • Joyce Owens, Chicago State faculty, Art & Design Department
  • Lowell Thompson, artist and writer
  • Natalie Moore, reporter, Chicago Public Radio
  • Patrick Rivers, SAIC faculty, Visual & Critical Studies Department

Living so far south that I inhabit a whole other state (which is still part of Chicago’s Calumet region), my marginal location gives me a very useful perspective on this subject. The subject speaks to the importance of identity and place and the old stories of enfranchisement. And I am very glad it has been brought up. I hope many Artist from Northwest Indiana participate in the ongoing discussions.

A major characteristic of my identity with Chicago growing up on the North Side was what was absent. I had a massive blackhole in my awareness of the city’s South Side. My family took advantage of a few South Side islands such as Hyde Park, China town, and Maxwell Street and I was a Sox fan, besides that I had no other identity with the South Side.

Chicago is known for its iconic neighborhoods, and yet during my youth – from the 1960s through the 1980s, most of Chicagoan’s lived in what I now call “Gap Areas.” These are places that lie between identities, mostly serving the nimby instincts (not in my backyard) of more powerful iconic identities. Consequently, these places tended to receive discarded land, material, infrastructure, and peoples; out-of-sight, out-of-mind. Whether they are brownfields or brownpeople north siders were too preoccupied with the forming of their own identities that they gave little attention to the South Side. It is hard for an enlightened northsider to speak to a Blackhole, even if they grew up in one.

When I think about this topic and its ramifications for Artist I don’t just think about the agents of art (makers and consumers) but also the place of art. Whatever you may think about the person, place also has an important role in Art. And when you add markets to the mix, well then, you just created hierarchies of place and centers of the arts which are highly biased toward monied interests.

There has always been a conflict between where the market is and where the artist live. Artists (or the Creative Class), being more mobile, have been known to abandoned where they live to migrate in mass and cluster around these highly capitalized creative centers. But now that capital has become highly mobile itself, actually much more mobile than people, there is no reason we can not bring these markets to these once discarded communities and neighborhoods and seed the development of more great artist.

See I believe, some of the blind neglect by the institutions of art and the media has expression in our built environment. The built environment is a physical record that also solicits certain behavior – it’s the construction of the Dan Ryan all over again. What has occurred on the southside with respect to the art world is another form of white flight and building barriers.

We are only beginning to see revitalization in the Bronzeville neighborhood and the near southside. My worry is that developers such as Community Builders, who are developing the Ida B. Wells area, have neglected the importance of Culture and the Arts to such an extent that they have not attracted the necessary capital to seed a vital cultural life.

Although Pilsen is a near southside community it can serve as a good example for seeding the development of a cultural center. There are several initiatives that make it a vital place for artist to live (the Hispanic Art Museum and the Podmajerski properties to name just two). The last decade has also seen an expansion of the art scene into Bridgeport and farther south. Then of course there is Hyde Park, Beverly and Morgan Park.

But what is forgotten are the neighborhoods that lie under the plumb of existing and fallow 20th century industry – steel mills and oil refineries. There has been very little to no progress in these neighborhoods.

By the title “Why have there been no great South Side Artists?” Jason Founberg references Linda Nochlin’s famous Feminist essay, “Why have there been no great women artists?” This is a great rhetorical tactic that worked well for women in the arts in the late 1980’s and early 1990s. It creates a dialectic between the art establishment and South Side Artists. The framing of the dialectic repositions the South Side Artist to a position of equivalence. Remember this is also the era that produced the Guerilla Girls, Hillary Clinton and other effective tactics of identity politics to empower disenfranchised women. If I was a community organizer, I would say we made same great gains here. So, as much as we need to continue building channels for great artists to reach the great show rooms of the Art establishment so too we need build the channels that brings the Art establishment to the South Side.

Finally, there are perceptual advantages to living at the margins of this Metropolis. ….

Last Final Note: 

The “Invisible Artist” panel discussion will air on Chicago Public Radio at a future date to be determined. A related exhibition, “Change…” is on view through April 30 at the South Side Community Art Center, 3831 S. Michigan.

Planning Mishap? Israel-Palestine: A Land in Fragments

March 15th, 2009 2 comments

From the [ American Friends Service Committee ]

<About>

The American Friends Service Committee carries out service, development, social justice, and peace programs throughout the world. Founded by Quakers in 1917 to provide conscientious objectors with an opportunity to aid civilian war victims, AFSC’s work attracts the support and partnership of people of many races, religions, and cultures.

AFSC’s work is based on the Quaker belief in the worth of every person and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice. The organization’s mission and achievements won worldwide recognition in 1947 when it accepted the Nobel Peace Prize with the British Friends Service Council on behalf of all Quakers.

The AFSC is directed by a Quaker board and staffed by Quakers and other people of faith who share the Friends’ desire for peace and social justice. 

</About>

Conference: Drawing the Lines

March 4th, 2009 No comments

<Looking back at November 2006>This conference occurred more than 2 years ago at Indiana University Northwest. This is the kind of stuff that peeks my interests and tickles my hand. There was great significance to hosting such a conference at this time and place. Northwest Indiana had been looking for strategies to revitalize the region. They had developed the Marquette Plan, the Regional Development Authority, transportation projects, etc. This was in a continuation of efforts to move things along.

This brings to mind two issues.

  1. What is the role of the Artist in urban vitalization?
    • Too often the artist’s voice in these kinds of discussions are treated like a craft booth artist, pedaling their cute works. Otherwise they are deaf, dumb and blind. Artists are to perform and be quiet. This is what I call the “Dirty Dancing” treatment. I am often embarrassed for Artist who accept such roles. 
    • I believe the Artist needs to step up and contribute their voice to the built environment. I believe that Artist voice should take the leading role more often in civil society. 
  2. And what has happened in the last 2-years?
    • I am not certain anything has happened. I don’t know of any new initiatives or changes in the way the region is approaching revitalization. 
    • It appears to me with the announcement of the BP project the region has actually regressed from advancing such initiatives. 
    • Revitalization of the region reverted back to a reliance on old heavy industry, in this case the refining of the even dirtier fossil fuels – the Alberta tar sand.
    • The region became ensnarled in a lack of initiative and culture once again. Indiana and regional Leaders approved environmental permitting with out ANY objection. It wasn’t until Illinois voice objection to violating the the Clean water act that the issue was heard. Regional Leaders and the press did not investigate. They promoted the project without investigation. They approved with out reviewing impacts, particularly to initiatives outlined in this conference.

 

Drawing the Lines: International Perspectives on Urban Renewal through the Arts
This conference promotes conversation about art and urban renewal on the broader international scale alongside more local applications in Northwest Indiana. Drawing the Lines brings together the multiple constituencies whose perspectives are necessary to evaluating the merits of urban revitalization models.

Drawing the lines seeks to:

  • Explore models of urban renewal through the arts,
  • Reflect on the impact of renovations efforts in the community,
  • Understand how government and private markets affect urban change,
  • Share best practices among community based leaders and scholars, and
  • Build a coalition to create concrete initiatives for the Northwest Indiana region.

 

Conference Abstracts:

  • The Arts Can Define a Region
    John M. Cain, South Shore Arts
  • Revive:  Using Art to Help Heal a Superfund Site
    Minda Douglas, Marcia Gillette, and Ann Cameron, Indiana University Kokomo
  • The Impact of Visual and Expressive Art on Public Policy and Public Voice
    Karen G. Evans, Indiana University Northwest                                          
    Daniel Lowery, Calumet College of St. Joseph
  • Cool Cities” Through Their “Creative Class”: A Model for Revitalizing Indiana’s Essential Cities
    Bruce Frankel, Ball State University
    Deborah Malitz, Indiana City Corp.
    Larry Francer, Historic Farmland
    Flo Lapin, Goldspace Theater, Muncie
    Richard Sowers, Anderson Symphony
    David Bowdon, Columbus Symphony, Terra Haute Symphony, Carmel Symphony
  • The Interstices Between Art and Economic Development
    Michelle Golden, Books, Brushes and Bands
    Mary Kaczka, Hammond Development Corporation
    John Davies, Woodlands Communications
    Daniel Lowery, Quality of Life Council
  • The Poetics of Space: IU Northwest’s Sculpture Garden
    Neil Goodman, Indiana University Northwest
  • Available:  post-industrial development and design at Lake Calumet
    Ellen Grimes, w / M. Powell, A. Kirschner, and M. al Khurasat, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Urban Redevelopment and the Arts:  Flagship Cultural Projects in Los Angeles and San Francisco
    Carl Grodach, University of Texas at Arlington
  • Leveraging Culture to Build a City’s External Brand and Internal Cohesiveness
    Tom Jones, Smart City Consulting
  • The IU Northwest Klamen Mural Project
    David Klamen, Indiana University Northwest
  • Art in the Region” 
    Patricia Lundberg, Indiana University Northwest
  • Looking at Urban Renewal Trials
     Peter Matthews, University of Mar
  • Spaces of vernacular creativity
    Steve Millington, Manchester Metropolitan University
  • The Other City Beautiful: Philadelphia and its Avenue of the Arts
    Micheline Nilsen, Indiana University South Bend
  • Bilbao: a spectacular but somehow disenchanted city
    Antonio Román,, University of Deusto
  • The Creative Class and Urban Economic Growth Revisited
    Michael Rushton, Indiana University, Bloomington
  • Creating A Vision for International Community Development:  Indianapolis in 2050
    William Plater, Indiana University Purdue University, Indianapolis
  • Projects to Save a City
    Sanjit Sethi, Memphis College of Ar
  • The ‘Guggenheim Effect’ and the ‘New Bilbao’: On the Social Costs of Bilbao’s Urban Regeneration
    Lorenzo Vicario and Manuel Martínez-Monje, University of the Basque Country.

Marquette Plan: Portage Lakefront

February 28th, 2009 No comments

So what is happening on the southern shores of the worlds largest source of fresh water?

From the NWI Times:


Former Portage Mayor Doug Olson and Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Superintendent Costa

 

 

This from I think I can do that. [ JB Daniel ]

It’s the first time I noticed that the waves come and go at the same time.

Shows: Experimental Geography

February 27th, 2009 2 comments

 

Curated by Nato Thompson from Creative Time

Geography benefits from the study of specific histories, sites, and memories. Every estuary, landfill, and cul-de-sac has a story to tell. The task of the geographer is to alert us to what is directly in front of us, while the task of the experimental geographer—an amalgam of scientist, artist, and explorer—is to do so in a manner that deploys aesthetics, ambiguity, poetry, and a dash of empiricism. This exhibition explores the distinctions between geographical study and artistic experience of the earth, as well as the juncture where the two realms collide, and possibly make a new field altogether.

Also at the New Museum on Sat, Mar 21, 2009 at 3:00 PM there will be a panel discussion: Experimental Geography Panel Discussion: An Aesthetic Investigation of Space

This sounds like something I would like. I will have to check it out.

The Ride to School on Route 41

February 17th, 2009 No comments

Yesterday I took this series of photos, on the ride to my kids school. You may find a blurring in the foreground, as the vehicle was often moving. The trip brings them from East Chicago to Hyde Park daily – through some of the heaviest industries (past Mittal Steel, past SafetyKleen, and through BP). This is the usual scene for anyone traveling north on route 41 (what Lakeshore drive turns into south of Hyde Park) to Chicago from Northwest Indiana. I didn’t include all the tank farms, the combine disposal facility, casinos, the industries in Hammond (Cargil, Lever Bothers), or images of Hyde Park. At some point I actually had to drive. My Children stratal many radically different worlds.

There are two things that strike me about these images.

  1. Everyone is releasing something into the air-shed and contributing to the aggregate air problems.
  2. The vehicles seem to be from a bygone era. They date the images as the past.

RDA and Planning

February 18th, 2006 4 comments

Recently, the members of the RDA were blindsided by Council as they were informed that they are required to develop a comprehensive plan before they can spend a single cent.

Was the response of RDA members to divy up the funds in the same old fiefdom fashion they are accustom to doing?

Categories: Northwest Indiana

Message #2 to the newly formed RDA

September 26th, 2005 1 comment

The following are some of my thoughts as I consider the impact the RDA can have on the region.

Agreement is not only elusive it is counterproductive to the very nature of our mission. The necessary range of our endeavor can only be achieved through a decentralized network of interests.

Organizing a region is one of the most ambitious human endeavors. Concepts at this scale are at the height of what is to be a Metropolis and why the RDA has formed. Where planning is generally considered a local responsibility municipal fragmentation is inevitable. Ordering the regional system has generally taken one of three approaches; social, environmental, or transportation.

Social plans emanating from a concern for creating a better place to live include Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City concept, and today’s New Urbanism. They establish three fundamental foci: The Urban Boundary, The Rural Boundary and Transit-Oriented Development. (NWI does not have regional example of this approach, However we do have a few scattered developments ranging from the worker villages of Marktown and Sunnyside to more recent developments such as Coffee Creek)

The environmentally structured plans include Olmsted and Eliot’s Boston Regional Plan. These examplify how the juxtaposition of nature to human settlements transcends ideology. Concerns for health, recreation, as well as our watershed, land and forests can overcome socioeconomic divisions. (The Marquette Plan as our first and only regional land use plan is a worthy expression of a Metropolis)

Until recent concerns for the environment, transportation had been the strongest determinant of the regional form, and continuous to be the ruling determinant here in NWI. (Again NWI is looking to transportation)

It is my recommendation, as we build this Metropolis and compete against other regions, that NWI and the RDA along with other regional authorities seed and overlay plans along all three approaches, To be a successful community we must learn to juggle many balls, and not ignore any for the emanance of one. From a land use perspective NWI has suffered from the tyrrany of single – use planning (some may argue the lack of planning). We must now acknowledge that this approach has not done us well. It has not been smart nor sustainable.

Categories: Northwest Indiana

Message #1 to the newly formed RDA

September 26th, 2005 No comments

Today is an apt time to release some of my thoughts about the forming of the RDA. The following is a message I sent on to Tim Sanders, the NWI representative of the Indiana Economic Development Corp. and one of the organizers of the RDA, on September 6, 2005.

Today’s Opinion section of the Times outlined a number of initiatives for the RDA. Although I fully support the economic opportunities these projects represent to the region, I must encourage the RDA to adopt principles of “smart growth” and “sustainable development” to mitigate against any adverse impact. With the ongoing events on the Gulf Coast (due in part to the weakened wetlands system), the mission of the Great Lakes Collaborative in protecting our water supply, and the regional movement to improve the quality of life here in NWI, it is timely that the economic mission of the RDA partner with ecological principles. As we all know our waterways and air are amongst the most polluted in the country. We have the need and the opportunity to reverse the damage. First, in so doing, we have the opportunity to seed an industry of environmental re-mediation, secondly, in so doing, we open the opportunity to feed-up the American economic food chain and attract knowledge based industries and workers to the region. I have an idea, lets get obsessive about cleaning our environment and lets be known throughout the country for this obsession. Chattanooga, Tennessee can serve as a great example, considered America’s dirtiest city in the 1980’s today it is one of America’s greenest.

At present the mission of the RDA is project or action/transportation orientated, as the outline of initiatives show. The RDA, as a natural outgrowth of NIRPC is like NIRPC, and threatens to duplicate NIRPC and past mistakes. With that said NIRPC’s historical role has been in transportation, leaving land use to the municipalities, in reality to industry (In the case of East Chicago and Gary City Planning and building standards are no longer existent). At some point, municipal shortfalls will need to be addressed at the regional level, if we are to maximize economic growth opportunities. The regions lack of history in land use planning and lack of balance between land use and transportation has contributed to the regions lack of quality of life. We lack so much. I encourage the members of the RDA to bring greater emphasis to land use planning and establish a committee addressing Brownfield redevelopment. For further discussion on Brownfield Redevelopment and three case studies see below.

Although I am not a Historical Preservationist I must also encourage the RDA to act responsibly when it comes to the few remaining remnants of our regions heritage. In the right hands these resources offer nodes of development from which to cluster new industries in todays knowledge based economy. These historical references can give location a place, and a marker to time. In our zeal to get something done don’t forgot the value of what was already here. WE DO NOT LIVE IN AN ENVIRONMENT OF SCARCE OPPORTUNITIES AND WE DON’T HAVE TO BEHAVE AS IF WE DO. We need to behave as we want to be, and we will become that. We just need to prove that we are economically rational, that we understand the value of what we have, and that we treat what we have with value.

Next, I would like to raise a tone of caution when it comes to the planned expansion of Gary/Chicago International Airport, I fear the need to aggressively push expansion through will negatively and severely impact East Chicago’s harbor neighborhoods as this does not have to be the case. As presently planned the expansion would negatively impact the only stable middle class neighborhood in the City, a hospital, three elementary schools, and acres of parkland. If I could I would nominate the airport expansion as a candidate for a smart growth initiative, by orienting growth in a much more compatible manner. It appears the planned configuration is a political configuration, and perhaps a product of the petty fiefdoms. The intent seems to be to threaten the desirability of East chicago, and force East Chicago to negotiate from a negative position, to gain back its future economic potential. The only problem is East Chicago leadership does not yet perceive the threat and are not engaging the issue.

Lastly, Lets be vision makers, and lets build upon our identity.

Categories: Northwest Indiana

East Chicago Waterway management District

August 24th, 2005 No comments

Today I had my final interview for Director of the East Chicago Waterway Management District. This was after submitting my application more than 9 months previously – a long, long process – today they offered me the position. So now, I am responsible for prehaps the single most polluted body of water in the country, along with an equally polluted parcel of land. The only thing that comes to minds is “well, lets clean it up.”

Here’s the Times article by Steve Zabrooski New E.C. Waterway chief has homework to do

The difficulty with this offer is that during these pass 9 months I was in need of income. Despite being appointed to the Redevelopment commission and I chairing a committee to develop a Comprehensive Plan for the City, all without pay, I seemed to be locked out of consideration for any other position. In the mean time life goes on, and I needed to pick-up work, so I picked-up a consulting job in an area of work from a previous life, developing medical education software.

Despite an agreement with my wife that she would take time off from work to be with the kids for a few years, she also looked around for a position. To our slight surprise and her enormous credit she was offered a position teaching at the University of Chicago Lab School, a position she often dreamed of. This helps us enormously as it also offers the benefit of a good school for our children to attend, a major consideration. The only problem is that the opportunity came too soon. Opportunities just can not be planned. My wife was looking forward to being home more with the kids. It is just an opportunity she can’t miss.

Brownfield Redevelopment

August 20th, 2005 No comments

Despite the fact that East Chicago is now the home of Mittal Steel, the worlds largest steel manufacturer, it still needs to grapple with the reality that steel production is quickly contracting and will very soon disappear from this region of the world. Below are three case studies of what can be done with the fallow brownfields left behind by steel producers. For many reasons East Chicago is fortunate to have survived as long as it has in the production of steel. This has provided the economic leaders of East Chicago with a wealth of case studies from which to learn. Although, East Chicago needs to work out a strategy tailored to its needs (to take advantage of unique opportunities), it has the strategies other municipalities have formulated from which to glean. In each case, the municipality had to retread its regional economy while adopting various reuse strategies.

Case Studies:
1) South Side Works, Pittsburgh LTV Property: What makes this example enticing is the fact that much of the land in need of redevelopment in East Chicago was also owned by LTV steel. Like the South Side Works East Chicago is located with in 20 minutes from a major city center. In the case of East Chicago, it is 20 minutes from downtown Chicago.
Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh
Project Profile

2) The Sloss Furnaces

The Sloss story rests on becoming a National Historic Landmark. Proponents of preservation organized the Sloss Furnace Association to lobby for saving the site for historical and cultural importance to the City and its role as a symbol of the technology that once made Birmingham the foremost industrial center of the South.

3) Emscher Park Germany (for PDF)

Emscher Park, opened in 1989, is a bold attempt to re-use one of the largest industrial wastelands in the world. Built on ecological principles, the park offers a range of high quality recreation facilities for local people and tourists, as well as housing and offices. “The idea was born in the 1999 regional economic strategy, which identified the need to take forward large-scale environmental projects that would benefit recreation and regeneration and have a good effect on the region’s image.”