Ah, 2016. A year of extreme lows (the election and, like, everything else happening across the country and around the world) and extreme highs (my accomplishments—I won’t lie; this was actually one of my best years ever, all thanks to you). More about those highs first:
|Photo by my mom.|
The highlights of my year, in no particular order:
- I created and independently curated my biggest and best art show yet, LEXICON, in the Zhou B Art Center’s newly renovated 7,000 sq. ft. space. Featuring 47 artists, the interactive exhibition eschewed formal artist statements in favor of your interpretations and thoughts, written on Post-its and displayed on the walls next to the artwork itself.
- Idols become peers, whether it was sitting next to and speaking on a panel with them at an art fair or interviewing them.
- I performed at 20x2 Chicago, choosing to share, for the first time, some of the responses from the Chicago edition of Dreams of a City, which I started in 2008 in New York. By leaving thousands of blank, pre-stamped, self-addressed, and coded postcards in public spaces, all with the prompt, “Tell me one thing you dream of doing before you die,” and recording where I leave each one, I’ve gradually been mapping the city with your dreams and hopes.
- I connected and re-connected with the Sixty Inches From Center family at Wrote One, dedicated to post-election action.
- I had fun fulfilling your drawing requests, which went to good causes in the fight against the upcoming regime.
- I received great press, like a feature in author Olivia Cole’s Women of Wednesday interview series with women of color, a feature on Asians Doing Everything, a surprise inclusion in Crain’s Chicago Business’ list of “10 Things To Do” all summer (as #2, no less, after a Kristin Chenoweth benefit concert and above Hamilton), a feature article in Chicagoist, and more.
- I won the National Park Foundation’s Centennial Project, thanks to your votes.
- I traveled (to my second homes New York City and Hong Kong and, with my parents, visited Cambodia, Thailand, and Greece).
|My top liked Instagram photos of the year.|
The common thread? People. I’m proud that, from the get-go, my focus has always been on people, ever since I started this site in 2011 with posts dedicated to discussions and the first show I curated independently, Exquisite Corpse, which was founded on collaboration. Then came I CAN DO THAT, where I placed the artists’ original supplies in front of each piece and challenged viewers to see if they could, indeed, “do that.” (It was great fun and made the best kind of mess.) The only ongoing art project of my own, Dreams of a City, is made by your voice. And I will continue making art, my life, about people, about you. Different artists and curators use art for different purposes, all of them with merit. For me, however, art is nothing if it doesn’t bring people together.
Tell me something good that happened to you in 2016! What’s something you’re proud of and would like to shout from the rooftops (or my blog’s comment section)?
Your top 10 most read posts of 2016:
9. “Value” – A sneak peek of an interactive sculpture at LEXICON (and a fangirl moment).
8. “The Little Things” – An announcement about a Hong Kong photographer (and a role reversal of a fangirl moment).
7. “Garden” – The first artwork sale at LEXICON (and a follow-up to the show’s artist talks, demos, and workshops).
6. “Pond” – More artwork sold at LEXICON (and me in front of a piece).
5. “Performance Paint plus Polymath post” – One of two posts on this list not from 2016.
4. “Holiday Drawing Commissions” – Words of thanks and ways to help.
3. “Moon” – A sneak peek of an animated neon poem in LEXICON (and a scan from my childhood).
2. “Discussion: Why Do You Collect Art” – The other post not from 2016 and a classic.
1. “Love Letters: An Artist Studio Visit with Sheila Arora” – One of the most popular posts of all time, a spotlight on a Chicago painter and a tour of her home.
And now for the lows:
Many have been declaring 2016 to be “the worst.” You know what, though? With the impending Trumpocalypse, 2017—hell, the next four years—will be worse, and we’ll look back at 2016 as The Last Normal Year, as the calm before the storm, if we don’t put in the work, if we allow this chapter of our history to be written for us.
More and more beloved celebrities (and legendary artists) are going to leave us, or at least it will seem that way, simply because the people we know and the people we think we know and we ourselves are growing old.
Spend time with those you hold dear. Cross off whatever’s on your bucket list. If all these deaths—whether they’re celebrities or civilians in Syria or victims of mass shootings and violence at home—and the election tell us anything, it’s that life and the world are as unpredictable as they are unfair. We don’t get to choose when we’re born; we don’t get to choose what times we live in, what we survive to see. But these are our times. But, luckily for us, we can alter them. Angela Davis said, “I’m no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I’m changing the things I cannot accept.”
As long as you’re alive, you have the power to write—and right—your story.
The world won’t magically improve when the clock strikes twelve. Build the world you want to live in. Work towards midterm elections. Invest in your community. Support local artists, marginalized groups, and young people; we are your future, if there’s one left for us. Help, protect, and stand up for one another. Be kind. (Not polite or well-behaved. Kind.) Give. Create hope. Create. Love. Know that your anger and sorrow are valid. Let them motivate you. Rest. Reflect. Recharge. Ready yourself for battle.
If your hero left you this year, become your own hero. You won’t be alone; all around you is a new generation of heroes. They’re halfway around the globe. They’re your neighbors. They’re reading this post.
If you find yourself in the wrong reality, make it right. If you’re stuck in the darkest timeline, start your own.
Tell me something you look forward to in 2017! What do you hope for? What do you want to do? (Go do it!)
I’m looking forward to:
- The anti-inauguration screening of Transition to Power, the documentary I was interviewed for. The event will be 7-9pm, January 20, on the 5th floor of Mana Contemporary Chicago in Pilsen.
- The Subject Is Chicago: People, Places, and Possibilities at the Chicago Cultural Center. The exhibition opens in February.
- 2017’s designation as the “Year of Public Art” in Chicago.
And a couple artist opportunities:
- You can apply for the Individual Artists Program Grant from the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. (I received this grant in 2013 for Dreams of a City.) The deadline is January 13.
- Here’s a call for poster and banner art from the Amplifier Foundation in partnership with the Women’s March on Washington. The deadline is January 8.
Thank you, all. Happy New Year!