One night a month, four months out of the year, Chicagoans gather at different iconic Loop alleyways to engage in a cultural, artistic conversation. ACTIVATE transforms alleyways into pop-up urban exhibitions that bring Chicago artists and the public together to experience and celebrate the arts.
ACTIVATE was created by the Chicago Loop Alliance to attract investments to the Loop by holding urban experiences in the often glimpsed-over cement spaces that link the city together. The location of the event is kept a secret until two weeks before the night. This air of secrecy lends itself to the very essence of ACTIVATE Chicago’s identity- building momentum around a conversation of Chicagoan’s urban, artistic minds.
ACTIVATE will hold its last event of the year on Thursday, Sept. 28. This month’s theme, “Hideaway: Retreat from the Street,” explores the alley as a place to escape the eyes of the street. The event wants to highlight the beauty of these cinder havens, especially to those whose only relationship with the alleyways are one of indifference. Regina Merrill handles the public relations account for ACTIVATE, and she gave deeper insight into the reason behind some of the additions for this year’s program.
“The portal is a new feature this year that changes at every event, and it brings the history of the alleyway into perspective,” Merrill said. The portal invites the attendee to imagine. When you step through the portal, you are entering a designated space with a colorful history- not an ominous, void space. The refreshing idea is rooted in the relationship that the people of Chicago have with its city, and how bringing artistic minds together can transform any space.
ACTIVATE is partnering with Salonathon, a home for underground, emerging, and genre-defying art, for the September alleyway experience. Salonathan’s ideology surrounds the idea of creating an inclusive, creative community. They host a weekly artistic gathering every Monday night at Beauty Bar, 1444 W. Chicago Ave. One of DePaul’s own Theatre School graduates, Will Von Vogt, is the producer, casting director and co-curator of Salonathon.
What Salonathon will provide in terms of artistic ambiance and installations at ACTIVATE will be explored through an “evening of performance and spectacle designed to invite attendees to redefine who they are, rediscover who they want to be, and throw propriety aside,” according to the official event statement.
Empowering choreography by Erin Kilmurray and the Search Party Dancer will be performed. University of Chicago’s Dirt Red Brass Band will be producing a musical performance, along with opera and R&B artist Alexa Grae, Mykele Deville and DJ Danny LeRoy. The alleyway will be given a makeover with a new mural by CZR PRZ that will allow you to be transformed into a giant, fantastical winged being. Guests can be a part of the art installations with interactive art exhibitions like writing anonymous notes that will be incorporated on the spot into the pop-up by facilitator Natalie Pasquinelli.
If your artistic taste buds have been tantalized, you can join the city of Chicago at Arcade Place Alley, 55 S. Wells St., on Sept. 28 from 5 p.m. until 10 p.m. Entrance into the event is free for all ages (but just remember to bring cash if you are of the age of 21 and may want to partake in purchasing an alcoholic beverage, but of course this is at your discretion). Another insider tip is that if you RSVP online before the event you can receive a ticket for a complimentary beer, wine or cocktail.
In the words of a current DePaul student, Megan Spiess, “the event combines some of the coolest and most creative minds I have met in the city, and they all appreciate the importance of art bringing people together.”