We wanted to give our community a different kind of update. Not another announcement of closure and cancellation. Not another “stay healthy!” If you’re like me, my inbox, phone, and mind have been flooded with the bleak reality that this time of illness and isolation will have a lasting impact on all of us. It will, no doubt.
Our biggest upcoming project is the next issue of our literary magazine, Awakened Voices. It will be called “Intention for Change.” I couldn’t help but notice the irony. This magazine is our biggest program; reaches the widest audience; engages the most survivors; requires the most working hours from our staff. Yet, it has been the most invisible. “You have a magazine?” echoed through our gallery walls every time new visitors were told we do more than just art exhibits. But we never stopped doing it. This magazine has allowed us to peer inside a community we never saw, but felt. It was hidden in plain sight. Invisible bridges between cities, states, and countries existed all along, cutting through oceans; through silence. We hope to build a few more of those bridges.
During these trying times, we suggest paying attention to positive things that may have been invisible to you before. It is easy to focus on the unseen web of connectivity drawn by this new illness. A lot is coming to light. The extra foot you put between yourself and the passerby on the sidewalk. The white noise of social media injecting compounding panic to the public. But let us feel grounded in our humanity. Some of us are healthy, some are not. Some are choosing to stay inside, and some do not have that choice. Regardless of who we are, we are bound together by our survival. Awakenings learned early on that healing doesn’t need to be lonely, stories can travel, and compassion can be felt around the world. All we have to do is listen. A beloved Awakenings artist, Sky Dai, painted a mural on our gallery walls in the summer of 2019. When the exhibit closed, we painted over it. But I still see it. It’s still there. I can feel it from behind the white wall paint, and I can hear Sky’s music playing, and their dog Monet sniffing around the gallery. I can still see every piece of art that’s hung in the gallery since I started working here in 2014. It broke my heart to temporarily close the gallery, cancel events, and tell the staff to work from home. But when I think of all the stories that have passed through physically and virtually, the gallery does not feel empty to me. We might be closed for a little while, but Awakenings and our artists have never been contained by those four walls.
Pictured below: Sky Dai and Monet during install for [Upheaval]
Laura Kinter serves as the Executive Director of Awakenings. She holds a B.A. in Film and English from Vassar College and moved to Chicago from Philadelphia. Her passion for education through storytelling, grassroots community building, and the arts has helped Laura guide Awakenings through exponential growth over the last several years. Laura is active in the Ravenswood community as both a business leader and a resident, and currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Greater Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce. Laura has gone through 40 hour sexual assault crisis intervention training.