Blues, jazz and R&B bands led by West Siders Larry Taylor and Ronnie G will headline the first annual North Lawndale Arts and Culture Festival Sat. Aug. 6. 

 A colorful day of visual arts, music, dance and drama to Douglas Park will run  from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m at the cultural center/field house at 1400 S. Sacramento.  It’s free and people of all ages from anywhere in the world are welcome.

North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council, the not-for-profit group responsible for a unique citizens planning process in this West Side neighborhood, aims to bring out the area’s sometimes-hidden cultural assets, said festival chair Sheila McNary.

 Artists and craft makers are renting tables to display and sell their work.  All-day 8 foot tables are still  available beginning at $100; contact Sheila at

Both grown-folks and families will enjoy the the performers lineup. 

 West Side blues singer Larry Taylor, oldest son in the musical family of guitarist Eddie Taylor Sr. and singer Vera Taylor, is a master of the old art of blues as well as the soul and R&B of the 1970s.  His band for the festival features guitarist Joe B, and singers Mzz Reese and Mz Red.

Ronnie G is a sophisticated jazz and blues sax player whose combo has graced many parties and events on the West Side and beyond.

Community youth will liven up the day; the Celestial Ministries drum line will kick off the festivities. MADD Rhythms Tap, a South Side studio, is presenting percussive and tap dance. MUSIC Inc features local youth violinists. Local groups Tierra Roja (son garocho music) and the Chicago Music Award winning cumbia band Guapachosos will bring strikingly different Latin flavors. Positive rappers will get a few rhymes in as well: Tune Day and also the Ambitious Rebels featuring Space Man Miro and Quail.

 The spirit of Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman will reign at the festival, played by the venerable West Side storyteller Momma Kemba in a half-hour monologue. 

Artists and vendors so far include: BGLH, Sweet Beginnings, Maxwell Street Foundation, the NLCC, Celestial Ministries, MUSIC, Madd Rhythms, Momma Kemba, Painter Cory of 345 Gallery, Rickie Brown, Dametrius, Jaclyn Jacunski of SAIC, Free Spirit Media, Able Electropolishing, Bee Boys, Artsy Marcey Jewelry, Jamiah Calvin, and Eddie Hudson.

Planned development, local businesses, and the arts work hand in hand to build a better community, says Valerie Leonard, the sparkplug of NLCCC’s planning efforts. The festival will be a way to show and feel the potential of what the West Side can be.

Find the North Lawndale Arts and Culture Festival on Facebook: 

Additional West Side festivals this summer include Ald. Michael Scott’s West Side Fest Aug. 20 in Douglas Park; and former Ald. Ike Carothers blues festival in Columbus Park Thurs. Sept. 1, featuring Larry Taylor and Killer Ray Allison.


"Barrelhouse Bonni" McKeown, the author of "West Side Blues Blog," has played piano and written about blues music for over 15 years.  She has led classes for young and old on...