Putting neighborhood change on the radar of the Pitchfork set

Putting neighborhood change on the radar of the Pitchfork set

July 17th, 2010  |  Published in Reporting Across Boundaries

On face, “Who is Logan Square?”, which appears in this weeks Chicago Reader is a nice piece of arts reporting.  Rather than just informing readers about and promoting  the Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival, it describes conflict between event organizers over how the event represents Logan Square’s diversity.  But, it’s the context of the article within the particular issue of the Chicago Reader that makes it really interesting.

The story quotes artist Victor Montañez over his concerns about the geography of the fest:

And he really dislikes the way the fest map and program divide the approximately three dozen exhibition spaces into two groupings, south and north. “Art should bring people together,” Montañez says. The arrangement looks to him like a “divisive strategy” to create a Wicker Park-esque hipster scene in one area while concentrating people of color in the other. The list of curators and artists showing in the north section is heavier on Hispanic names.

Montañez is also critical of I AM Logan Square, a public-relations centered nonprofit-organization started by Ald. Rey Colón (35th) that was granted the key role in organizing this year’s fest.  In the story, Montañez said the organization’s leadership, from outside of Logan Square, contributed to organizing an event that doesn’t equally reflect different neighborhood demographics.  “This year we got I AM Logan Square – which is a studpid name because there’s no such thing, it’s we are Logan Square,” Montañez said.

Criticism by Montañez is balanced with quotes from the alderman and a volunteer who organized shows on the main stage who both say fest organizers took great steps to prioritize diversity in the event.

While reporting on gentrification and changing neighborhood demographics is done regularly in various Chicago publications, it’s really interesting that it was run in this particular issue of the Reader.  Since the event is next weekend, the article could have still previewed the event had it been run next week.  However, the story appears in the same issue as “The Reader’s Guide to the Pitchfork Music Festival.”

While writer Deanna Isaacs uses the phrase “alleged Pitchforkification” to describe Montañez’ concerns that Latino artists and musicians are downplayed in the Logan Square events lineup, the story clearly appears in a publication that includes readers who are interested in this weekend’s Pitchfork Music Festival and may be attracted to similar aspects of the Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival.  This confluence of a story about neighborhood conflict and interest in a certain kind of art and culture puts information in front of readers who may attend the Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival without examining it through a critical gaze.  It is unclear, however, whether this framing reinforces or challenges the idea that Latino residents of Logan Square and people who enjoy Pitchfork-style programming are mutually exclusive.

Whether or not Montañez is right about his concerns over the arts festival’s organizing, Logan Square is a neighborhood undergoing demographic change and the accompanying identity crisis that often comes with these changes.  The Reader’s reporting and editing do a good job of helping residents and visitors see how this struggle to define neighborhood identity can be reflected in events and entertainment.

Photos via the Chicago Reader.