North Lawndale Arts and Culture Festival spotlights West Side’s creative community
The 2018 North Lawndale Arts and Culture Festival returns to Douglas Park this weekend, and members of the community are invited to attend the three-day affair, which includes plenty of opportunities to discover new local artists, dance to live music entertainment, and enjoy a variety of food vendors.
For the last two years, Sheila McNary and Alysia Slusser, of the North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council, have worked to build, organize and promote the festival in an effort to unite the West Side’s artists, musicians, leaders and families. McNary and Slusser wanted to provide a place for people to talk and engage with others about their artistry, talents and craft.
“What we want to do is create a community,” said McNary, the head of the council’s Arts and Culture subcommittee.
In the festival's early years, McNary used to travel around North Lawndale and Homan Square neighborhoods and go door-to-door in search of participating artists. She spent time meeting with different creatives and collaborators, ultimately making it her goal to have the arts festival be a hub for them. From there, she also began partnering with nonprofits, entrepreneurs and local officials to garner their support and help highlight North Lawndale’s arts and culture scene.
“It’s just really fun to see our whole community being able to come together,” said Slusser, an Arts and Culture committee member, who thrives on seeing people so inspired by each other’s passions.
While the event officially starts this Friday with a recital by AileyCamp Chicago, a summer dance program for teens hosted by the Ailey American Dance Theater, the following days continue to break into a series of activities fit for guests of all ages.
From 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, attendees are welcome and encouraged to shop among area painters, clothing designers, jewelry makers, and essential oil experts, as well as view performances by jazz and blues musician, Ronnie G; the Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater, the Celestial Ministries School of Fine Arts and more.
Though the festival will have fan-favorites like Taylor’s Tacos and Ricky’s Grill, Slusser shared that guests also have the chance to purchase fresh fruits and produce from select vendors, including North Lawndale's own Farm on Ogden.
On Sunday, the festival will hold a STEM/STEAM education fair in the late afternoon, which will feature math and science-related activities for children and teens. A screening of Marvel's "Black Panther" will take place soon afterward. McNary said pairing the two events back-to-back was the perfect call, because one of the lead characters in "Black Panther” embraces her love for technology, and “that’s a good example for our children.”
With the festival just a few days away, McNary and Slusser are just excited, especially since they have been planning this festival for months. Beyond that, they have continued to see it grow and flourish, and that has been the biggest reward.
“With all of the support I’ve been getting from this, we’re very excited and happy,” McNary said. “Even with this year, it’s just getting bigger.”