PILSEN — A new exhibit looks to build bridges between Pilsen and South Shore by highlighting the parallel journeys of the Black and Brown residents of the South Side neighborhoods.
Seeds In My Pocket aims to create a space of healing through art after a year of civil unrest. Curated by South Shore artist Dorian Sylvain and Pilsen artist Pablo Serrano in partnership with the Chicago Art Department, the exhibit is focused on the shared journey of Black and Latino families who navigate barriers to create a sense of home and place in Chicago.
The exhibit opens 6-9 p.m. Friday at 1926 S. Halsted St. in Pilsen. Walk-ins are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Attendees are encouraged to make reservations here.
Sylvain and Serrano recruited artists from the South Shore and Pilsen neighborhoods to help tell these stories. The exhibit features pieces from Alma Dominguez, Mateo Zapata, Diana Solis, Kahari Black, Kari Black, Katon Black, Moises Salazar and Celia Benito.
“The exhibition was born following discussions on community and finding ways to create bridges of dialogue from one community to another,” Sylvain said. “Communities that are going through similar issues.”
Historically, Black and Latino families fled to Chicago in search for freedom, the curators said. These communities were on a “quest for a better life … yet remaining rooted in the idea of maintaining and preserving culture,” Sylvain said.
And both groups have faced barriers.
Black people who came to Chicago as part of the Great Migration to escape oppression in the South were met with barriers like redlining and decades of disinvestment. Similarly, Mexican immigrants fled economic challenges and violence — but then were displaced from the Near West Side to make way for the University of Illinois at Chicago campus, Sylvain and Serrano said.
“These are stories that reflect power dynamics that we still have yet to come to terms with, especially in Brown communities,” Serrano said. “There are borders within the city that keep our neighborhoods apart. Those aren’t accidents.”
“This is by design,” Sylvain said. “We all really want the same thing, and to be deprived of these basics just speaks to the racism and the covenants” preventing people from selling homes to Black families.
A more recent example of such discrimination was when then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed 50 schools on the South and West sides “in one sweep,” Sylvain said.
“It feels like as a community, we are constantly under attack, and it’s hard to move forward sometimes, but yet we do. Because we are strong. We’re resilient,” she said.
With this exhibit, the pair wanted to highlight the historical policies and barriers created to sideline Black and Brown folks in their search for a better life, whether those barriers were displacement or disinvestment, Sylvain and Serrano said.
“We wanted to explore these bridges of experience between the predominately Mexican community of Pilsen and the Black community of South Shore, and connect them to the broader narrative of what the neighborhoods say about the intent and design of the city while examining our own intent, our resilience and our quest to lay down roots and make these communities our home,” Serrano said.
At its core, Sylvian and Serrano said the exhibit provides an opportunity to have a conversation to create a “larger sense of civic identity that transcends the bubbles within communities.”
Even while exploring similarities in Pilsen and South Shore, they wanted to explore the aspects that make these neighborhoods unique.
“It’s about preserving history and culture and uplifting these conversations,” Sylvian said.
The exhibit runs through May 30.
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