A West Side summer pop-up series is taking over a vacant lot to give local youths an opportunity to learn, relax and make and sell art.
Da Lynx pop-up at 3525 W. Madison St. was organized by Kuumba Lynx, a youth development and arts organization. It will feature local vendors, art exhibitions, creative workshops, a meditation oasis and performances.
Da Lynx is open 1-7 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays through Aug. 20. A back-to-school party will close out the event series 1 p.m. Aug. 21.
“We decided to reclaim that space and activate it with different arts and culture activities,” said Jacinda Bullie, a founder of Kuumba Lynx. “We need to create a brave space and cultivate a feeling of safety. But also, we need to be able to rest and just chill sometimes … where you lay in a hammock and just hang out and watch a musical performance.”
The lot was transformed with the addition of a half basketball court, a medicinal plant garden and two customized freight containers retrofitted to serve as a shop for young artists.
Many young participants of Kuumba Lynx’s art programs became entrepreneurs over the course of the pandemic, creating artwork, jewelry and clothing, Bullie said. The pop-up shop gives young people the chance to experiment with turning their creative passions into a business that can help them achieve financial freedom, she said.
“They get to display some of their artistic works as entrepreneurs,” Bullie said. “You’re going to do this for the hood and do this for the people, and you’re going to get paid for it because we value you as an artist to the dialogue, the critical conversation that you bring.”
Garfield Park artist Aidan Lawson, 24, has frequented the pop-up to showcase his custom sneaker business, H And L Kicks. Showing his art and his business in the neighborhood where he grew up invites young people to imagine themselves in creative careers they might not have been exposed to otherwise, he said.
Lawson is also hosting a workshop at the pop-up to show his process for designing and customizing shoes.
“It just shows kids in the community that there’s so much more than the block. Being creative is a different route that a lot of kids in this community, they don’t really experiment with,” Lawson said.
Fashion designer Sejahari Saulter-Villegas, 22, is selling clothes he designed for his brand at Da Lynx. The pop-up is vital for emerging artists because it allows young people to see there are opportunities in creative fields within their own community, he said.
“It’s so meaningful to me as a person who grew up on the West Side and who grew to understand that my neighborhood was in need of spaces like this,” Saulter-Villegas said. “Throughout my entire upbringing, I had to go outside my community to reach spaces that felt like I could be an artist, like I had resources.”
The pop-up is also hosting the summer’s Chicago Hip Hop Theater Festival, a traveling event organized by Kuumba Lynx that brings performances, arts workshops and social justice programs to neighborhoods across the city throughout the year. The freight boxes that host art vendors during the day transform into a black box theater in the evenings for performances, Bullie said.
Performances will include an open mic July 30, spoken word events, a footwork exhibition and a dance theater show. For a schedule, go to the Chicago Hip Hop Theater Festival’s Instagram page.
A film created by Saulter-Villegas called “Pretty Boy” will also premiere at Da Lynx, he said. Inspired by his own experiences at school, the film is about a young man studying fashion design who “learns about the objectification and the racism in that industry,” he said.
“It’s such a full-circle moment because I’ve always wanted to create art for my people to see,” he said. “I went to NYU and created art for years for rich white people, and I didn’t care for them to witness my art in the same way as when people from where I’m from witness it.”
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