The founders of a new alliance are looking to improve the landscape for up-and-coming artists on the West Side. At a March 31 launch party, Daniel and Victoria Allen said that the new Chicago Cultural Performing Arts and Media Alliance will focus on three major priorities. 

The Allens said that members of the alliance will compile and share information about job and exhibition opportunities, teach local artists the skills needed start businesses and organizations, and work to secure funding for members. 

Daniel, who is a police officer, said that the alliance would work to achieve some cohesion in an area that doesn’t have a strong reputation for unity. 

“People on the West Side don’t work together,” Allen said. “In West Garfield Park, I’ve seen how nonprofits don’t work well together.” 

The Allens, who in 2017 founded the Divine Purpose Youth Performing Arts Center, 4540 W. Washington Blvd. in West Garfield Park, said that the alliance is a logical extension of what they’re hoping to achieve with the their center. 

“We’re better together — that’s our motto,” Victoria said. 

Daniel said that he hopes the alliance can “bring organizations together in [visual] arts, performing arts, video, etc.,” so that individual artists and groups can “support each other’s visions.” 

The Allens explained that through the alliance, they will establish an email list to alert members of exhibitions, calls for artists and funding opportunities. They’ll hold business development seminars and workshops, in addition to courses in grant writing. 

Alliance members are each asked to pay a $20 membership fee [monthly/yearly?] to help cover administrative costs. Daniel said that the alliance will also pursue government and private funding as well. 

The alliance has a board of directors comprising several members. Allen serves as its president while Paul Thigpen is treasurer and Harry Bell, a youth specialist at Divine Purpose and budding PR professional, is a youth representative. Allen said that he’s looking to expand the board. 

At last month’s launch party, held at 345 Art Gallery in East Garfield Park, alliance founding member Corry Williams, who owns the gallery, said that he and Allen have been trying to create constructive projects within the 11th police district for some time. 

“We just want to bring exposure and experience to different businesses on the West Side and come together as a collaborative group and support each other,” said Williams, who is also a police officer. 

Other members of the alliance said that they’re looking forward to making an impact on the West Side through the arts. 

Tonia Humphrey, a dance instructor, said that she hopes the alliance will provide her with opportunities to go into public schools on the West Side to teach students dance. 

And Matt Baron, a public school teacher and creative director for Silent Funny — a performance and exhibition space in West Humboldt Park — said that an alliance should make it easier for other artists trying to get their own visions off of the ground.

Baron recalled his agonizing experience of applying for 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. 

“The paperwork was a pain,” he said. “I was afraid of applying for grants. I’m grateful there’s an organization that makes us strong.”


Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Austin Weekly News since 2015. His work has also appeared...