About the Event
Chicago’s Pullman neighborhood is filled with an abundance of cultural and historical knowledge and is surrounded by a diverse community and innovative history that is often overlooked. In this talk, Pullman artists F.A.B.L.E, Joe Nelson, Steve Soltis, and Nailah Stevenson gather for a conversation moderated by Otez Gary, Community Engagement Manager at the MCA. All four artists are awardees of Pullman: Laboring Together, an initiative of the Chicago arts alliance Voice of the City, which aims to bring Pullman residents together in dialogue around the work of the neighborhood’s artists. The 2022 series is themed around the past, present, and future of Pullman, and in this final event—titled “Where We Are Going?”—the artists reflect on the work, community, diversity, art, and culture of Pullman, and what it meant to be laboring together through each phase of the yearlong project.
The talk is free to the public and takes place at Greenstone United Methodist Church, located at 11211 S St Lawrence Ave, Chicago, IL, 60628, and online via Facebook Live. If you are attending the in-person person, enjoy some refreshments beforehand, from 4 to 4:25 pm. Then stay afterwards for a reception sponsored by the MCA Community Engagement Team from 5:30 to 6:30 pm.
Voice of the City was awarded a Neighborhood Access Grant by the Department of Cultural Affairs for Pullman: Laboring Together.
This talk is organized by Community Engagement Manager Otez Gary and the Community Engagement team in collaboration with Dawn Marie Galtieri and Christopher E Ellis from Voice of the City.
About the Project
Since the neighborhood’s National Monument designation in 2015, Pullman has become seen by the world as one community, from 103rd to 115th Street, yet residents often refer to a divided community: “North” and “South” Pullman. To shed these distinctions and boundaries, Voice of the City began a series of collaborative arts activities and community dialogues, titled Pullman: Laboring Together, that celebrates Pullman’s rich cultural diversity in May 2022.
In Chicago, labor is inextricably linked to May Day and Labor Day. Pullman: Laboring Together provides a local cohort of five artists and two arts organizations the opportunity to showcase their works created in response to each of three prompts—Where We Have Been (May), Where We Are Now (September), and Where We Are Going (December)—throughout the year. Their work helps connect Pullman residents from May Day to Labor Day to the end of the year, beginning an annual unifying tradition through the arts.
By using art as a way of unifying the entire Pullman neighborhood (103rd to 115th Street), the programming helps open the door for difficult conversations that residents have been dancing around for decades. Arts activities can show common ground for all community members, while helping us face ways we need to change and repair so healing can take place.
While the opening of the Pullman National Monument Visitor’s Center on Labor Day 2021 provided a catalyst for launching this program, this project emerged from sentiments that have been bubbling and brewing for years, if not decades. Voice of the City believes that engaging neighborhood leaders from all areas of Pullman in arts events and dialogues will help break down barriers when meeting in more formal or contentious settings in the future.
About the Artists
F.A.B.L.E made Chicago headlines with the release of his first published body of work, The Hermit. Soon after, The Reader featured him once more for his first studio album, DUCKWEED. Since then, F.A.B.L.E has been laying the groundwork for his future. He’s performed and headlined many Chicago events, including, but not limited to, venues such as: Mamby on the Beach, The Chicago African Fest, SoFar Sounds Chicago, The Chicago RAGV, House of Vans, The Hideout, Cole’s Bar, Promontory, and Silver Room Block Party, just to name a few.
F.A.B.L.E has continued to strive throughout the course of the recent pandemic, most notably with his two singles, “Ashland ft. Jean Deaux” and “No More Waitin’ ft. Jean Deaux,” and in his partnership with Teach for America to create a heartwarming promotional campaign for the 2021 inauguration.
His 2021 EP Porcelain Princess was acknowledged by Chicago’s own Music Garage and was credited as one of the strongest bodies of work released that year. By July 2022, the Chicago lyricist strove to solidify his standing in the city’s bustling ecosystem with the release of his sophomore full-length album, Green Room. Featuring musical powerhouses like Silas Short and Add-2, as well as musical collaborations from Jackson Sheppard (Human Bloom), Jake Victor, and Seb Zel, the album further showcases F.A.B.L.E’s innate understanding of musical versatility as a tool to break through Chicago’s underground mold.
South Side born and bred, Joe “Cujodah” Nelson has considered “Artist” part of his identity for as long as he can remember. As a child, toy robots, cartoons, and comic books fueled his roaring imagination, and he was an incessant doodler because of it. To this day Nelson believes that sketching is the best way to birth great ideas. With his parents encouragement, he explored his artistic gifts as much as possible growing up, nurturing an interest with an intensity that fluctuated between a passion and an obsession. As a teen Nelson was exposed to Chicago’s graffiti scene, and fell in love with the technical, competitive, and collaborative aspects of it. Street art as a visual expression of hip-hop culture was satisfying and intoxicating—and Nelson embraced the notion of the “city-as-canvas” wholeheartedly.
Today Nelson functions as an accomplished fine artist and graphic designer with exploits and achievements both locally and abroad (Miami, Houston, Italy, Ireland, Kenya, and more). He believes art should not be confined nor restricted, as long as it is executed with integrity and skill. The content of his pieces vary, but more often than not, they intersect humor, human behavior, and city life. Currently, Nelson’s goal is to create a large series of work and to paint more murals (anywhere and everywhere!). His primary intention is to “produce quality work, and hopefully make a meaningful impact in the process.” In describing himself he says: “I will always be an Artist. The question is what kind do I want to be?”
Steve Soltis is a painter and sculptor from Chicago’s South Side. Art has been a major part of his life for as long as he can remember, and his earliest works were drawings of street characters and immigrant steel mill workers, having been employed at the steel mill for much of his teenage years. Eventually, these very drawings were what lead him to his art career.
Soltis’s paintings are autobiographical, with an emphasis on psychological, intuitive expression and the human condition. He prefers to work without visual aids but rather free of thought or preconceived ideas, which keeps it pure and allows for subconscious expression that goes beyond the physical likeness.
Chicago visual artist Nailah Stevenson has been creating, drawing, and painting on everything from clothing to brick walls for more than 30 years. She credits her mother for exposing her to the various cultural and musical influences that remain as constant references in her art. It was also her mother who recognized her artistic abilities, and advocated for her to take her first art classes at nine years old at the historic Southside Community Arts Center—the youngest student taught there at that time. Stevenson has been cultivating her artistic repertoire ever since.
As an independent artist and instructor, Stevenson operates as Nailah S. Artistry LLC, founded in 2021, and launched her website that same year.
The mission of Nailah S. Artistry LLC is to bring visual art and creativity to the under-served and under-represented communities in Chicago by using visual art to showcase positive images of marginalized people, while promoting body positivity, self awareness, cultural appreciation, and diasporic synergy.
Pullman: Laboring Together Awardees 2022
Take Some Leave Some
Christopher Horace, aka F.A.B.L.E
Joe “Cujodah” Nelson
Linda Beierle Bullen
Maya Benn/Pearl God Design
Lawrence BINKEY Tolefree
Greenstone United Methodist Church
Historic Pullman Foundation
Pullman Caritas Chorale
Pullman Civic Organization