The Great Chicago Fire Festival

Redmoon Theater

Funding Received: 2013
Chicago, IL
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
July 28, 2013

Redmoon hits SHERMAN Park
I’m new at Redmoon as of last week, here to produce the inaugural Great Chicago Fire Festival, the giant new undertaking ArtPlace is supporting. The festival will take place for the first time in October 2014, and the work till then is about creating strong and deep neighborhood partnerships. The Festival is intended to celebrate Chicago’s spirit of resilience, and the idea is that each of the participating neighborhoods will decide for itself how to represent this resilience as they see it on their blocks. So part of my job is to get the neighbors talking!
This summer, Redmoon is sowing the seeds for next year’s endeavor in ten city parks, by taking a catalyzing object we call the Sonic Boom into underused city parks, with the help of our partner, the Chicago Park District. The Sonic Boom is a 16-foot tall mobile, transformative DJ booth and speaker system. Last Friday, the Sonic Boom rolled up on Sherman Park, with the Bucket Boys, a South Side group of self-taught, entrepreneurial drummers; DJ Such and Such; and several accomplished poets from Young Chicago Authors, ready to give lessons in poetry, drumming, and to put on a show.

I arrived at 6pm, and caught the last of the drumming workshop. Neighborhood kids were playing with drumsticks and buckets, and several elders were interested to come up and tell me that they had seen kids leaving the park with buckets. People lined up for pizza and sodas. There were kids running around with the buckets and drumsticks, teenagers playing basketball, a couple of people in electric accessibility scooters, I saw all ages of people, vast majority African-American. Sherman Park Supervisor Marvin Tolbert looked on happily, and it turned out to be his birthday. I hoped this was an awesome birthday for him, in his gorgeous park, and wondered if there would be anyone in this park on a Friday night if we weren’t there. I asked him. He said, not so many. It felt safe, fun and joyful.

My notes to self, looking forward: always, always, feed people in order to start a conversation. Figure out how to keep the conversation going after the Sonic Boom rolls away, and before it gets there in the first place. For sure this means working with community-based organizations and getting closer to the Park Supervisors to hear their wisdom about what’s needed in each of their locations.

I met one other off-duty park supervisor, who was there to scope out the performance and see if she wanted it to come to her park. I was struck by the surprise I saw about the fact that people showed up, had a good time, and that nothing bad happened. I think this is the first line of the power of art – to renew hope in people that good things can happen right where they are, that there is, as ideas about placemaking would have it, creative potential ready to bubble up everywhere. This summer, I look forward to seeing it next in: Calumet Park, Columbus Park, Meyering Park, Midway Plaisance, Dvorak Park, Amundsen Park, Fuller Park, Sherwood Park, Humboldt Park.

After the workshop, neighbors gathered around the Sonic Boom After the workshop, neighbors gathered around the Sonic Boom[/caption]

(Caption: After the workshop, neighbors gathered around the Sonic Boom)

I’ll let you know how it goes, and would love thoughts about this from anyone reading!

Rebecca Rugg