The Hub (located at 1535 Division) is the central gathering place for artists and volunteers during this year’s Rapid Pulse International Performance Art Festival. On Saturday and Sunday afternoon, however, artists and children alike could be seen occupying the storefront site.
In the performance project Free Childcare Provided, artist Jess Dobkin (Canada) transformed the Hub into a performance art venue accessible to all ages. Her quest for dialogue, inquiry, and connectivity has its origins in her own experiences as a mother and artist, and donning a pin that read “THINGS TO ASK,” Dobkin invited and engaged her audience in a conversation centered on performance art, providing the physical and intellectual space to better address (without dumbing down!) the erudite concepts and vocabulary of contemporary performance practices.
In addition to the informal artist talks by Fereshteh Toosi, Kestutis Nakas, Arti Grabowski, Shannon Cochrane, and Carron Little, the storefront showcased four stations: “Toilet Paper: What is it for?” “Make Popcorn Not War,” “D.I.Y. Lemonade,” and “Express Yourself On Yourself,” with each station drawing inspiration from and re-imagining shared moments of childhood craft and creativity. Positioned somewhere in between mini-workshops, skill-shares, and craft stations, these expressions of engagement and play activated the storefront windows into displays of discourse and community. Children spent the two hours applying temporary tattoos, making popcorn, squeezing lemons, and fashioning toilet paper into whatever toilet paper can be fashioned into. And, when all was said and done, the Hub took on the air of a well-loved kitchen or living room after a sleepover.
Though rare to see so many alert and engaged children at a performance arts event (perhaps the unlimited popcorn and lemonade had something to do with it…), they were also the most enthusiastic contributors and participants there. Truly a welcoming and dynamic space, Free Childcare Provided succeeded in bringing children, parents, artists, and volunteers together even if only for a few hours.
Photo by Rosa Gaia Saunders
Hailing from Los Angeles, California, Elisabeth Smith is a dual-degree M.A. candidate in Modern Art History, Theory, and Criticism & Arts Administration and Policy at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Before attending SAIC, Elisabeth earned her B.A. in Art History from the University of California, Berkeley in 2011. Interested in curatorial work and community engagement at the museum level, Elisabeth has gained experience working at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, The Hammer Museum, and The Art Institute of Chicago. She currently works as a Distribution Assistant at the Video Data Bank.