Regarding the Milwaukee Arts Fest

July 17, 2010

posted by caroline picard

This is an article in the Reader. I included some of it below, although you can read the piece in its entirety by going here.

Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival
Fri 7/23, 4-11 PM, Sat-Sun 7/24-7/25, noon-11 PM, Milwaukee between Kimball and California, 773-549-3255, milwaukeeavenueartsfestival.org, $5 suggested donation around the main stage.

Who Is Logan Square?

A curator at the Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival says the fest doesn’t represent the neighborhood.

By Deanna Isaacs

Victor MontañezPhoto: Chrystal L. McGrew / Victor Montañez

Logan Square’s Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival is billed as the “most diverse & vibrant” of Chicago’s art fests. A pet project of 35th Ward alderman Rey Colón, it’ll run July 23-25 this year and cover a 1.5-mile stretch of Milwaukee from Kimball to California, turning more than 20 empty storefronts into ad hoc galleries showcasing the work of about 200 visual artists. Three official stages will offer live music, with a free trolley cruising from one end of the strip to the other. Organized by a new nonprofit assertively named I AM Logan Square (short for Independent Artists & Merchants of Logan Square), this fest looks to be better organized than 2009’s, which stretched over three miles with considerable dead space along the way.

But Victor Montañez says it won’t deliver the diversity it promises—at least not on its three official music stages.

Montañez, a Logan Square artist who’s curating visual arts for the north half of the strip, claims that music reflecting the ethnicity of neighborhood residents—especially Latinos, who, as of the 2000 census, made up about 65 percent of Logan Square’s population—has been given short shrift and that there’s been an overall insensitivity to the local zeitgeist. The reason? Montañez thinks it may have to do with the fact that I AM Logan Square is run out of a public relations office in Lincolnwood.

I AM Logan Square was set up by Colón and launched last winter. Montañez himself is a board member, but “unfortunately,” he says, “the board has never met.” Colón named publicist Amy Falk of Falk Associates as executive director. She says she made a two-year commitment to manage the organization, her services through December 2011 to be paid for by Mark Fishman, president of Logan Square property management firm M. Fishman and Company, as a “gift to the community.”

Montañez argues that the predominance of indie rock is turning the festival into a “Pitchfork wannabe.” He points to the Saturday main-stage lineup of eight bands, none of them Latino. Among the acts are the Black Bear Combo, the Blue Ribbon Glee Club, and the 1900s.

Geary Yonker—a Logan Square resident (and former Reader advertising account executive) who programmed this year’s main stage as a volunteer—disagrees. “We tried to make sure everybody in the community was represented,” he maintains, noting that an Afro-Cuban jazz and salsa band, the Opposite Sides, headlines the main stage on Friday and Grammy-nominated Angel Melendez & the 911 Mambo Orchestra headlines on Sunday—”and there’s only three days to the festival.” Yonker adds that the fest was “very grassroots last year,” when it was run out of the alderman’s office. “But for it to endure, it had to be better organized. Some people had a problem with the changes that were made.”

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