Chicago is bursting with creativity in unexpected places

Creativity is a universal, innate resource. It transcends race, class, age, abilities, geography — creativity can’t be redlined. And it’s inspired as much by hardship as beauty, by scarcity as abundance, by community as individuality. So perhaps it’s no wonder that it abounds in the Chicago area, across all 77 neighborhoods and all 100 suburbs, manifesting in our homes, businesses, community organizations and schools; festivals and events; parks and gardens.

Chicago is known for its blues and for Second City comedy, for groundbreaking architecture and sculpture, for eateries from street-cart casual to Michelin-starred fine dining. We’ve also got Broadway shows, the Lyric Opera and the Art Institute; Lollapalooza, Pitchfork, Summer Smash; the Chicago International Film Festival, Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival and the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo; street art, murals and mosaics in every neighborhood; festivals, markets and block clubs every weekend; active arts organizations such as the Arts Alliance, Arts Encounter Illinois and the Chicago Public Art Group; and countless more.

Our artists, makers and creatives are always experimenting with something new and unique, whether it’s in pottery or knitting; jewelry or fashion; music or dance; graphic design or puppetry; acting or improv; writing, drawing, painting, photography, illustration, street art, tattoos, baking or content creation.

And not just for fun, either. Chicagoans use creative pursuits to solve problems, build community, help others, improve their neighborhoods, preserve their cultural heritage, make personal and political statements, learn or educate, relax, find joy, recover from trauma or loss, express themselves, connect with friends, support themselves and their families, and much more. 

So in this edition, we wanted to showcase a few of the exciting, innovative people and organizations shaping and propelling the Chicago area’s vibrant creative scene. We’ve gone looking for creative expressions in unexpected spaces, celebrating the amateurs, craftspeople, teachers and performers who are populating — and transforming — the city into something unique and wonderful through their personal vision.

This includes a drag competition that focuses on mentorship, community fixtures who teach folk art to keep cultural traditions alive, a community of artists with disabilities, art as emotional healing, dance troupes updating traditional forms, political art in prison, street art in Little Village, the latest in trash art and much more.

We hope you enjoy this exploration of creative Chicago! Please let us know what you think and what you’d like to read about next by emailing me at jkho@suntimes.com.

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