Celebrating National Black Business Month. Chicago Street Journal (CSJ) August 11, 2017.

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Come celebrate National Black Business Month with Chicago Street Journal (CSJ).

Interview with Ms. Dianna Long,

Executive Director of Urban Art Retreat

1. We’ve all heard the term “starving

artist” but can you tell our readers

about the 21 st Century working artist?

I really don't like the term “starving artist”.

Forever, people have thought of artists as

either starving or selling their art for millions.

This stereotype is one of the things

that prevents people from pursuing art for

a living. It is the reason many parents don't

Dianne and Wayne

want their children to become artists. This

“fantasy idea” of artists is not what it is

really like. Most artists pursue their art career while they hold down another

job. Smart artists figure out what it takes to make a living as an artist

& pursue that goal. They get the necessary degree/s & experience, & go forward

as in any career choice.

2. Tell us a little bit about your background/training and how you prepared

to run an organization like the Urban Art Retreat.

I have always made art, even as a toddler. Art-making was something I

found solace in, my confidence, & safety. I attended art school at SUNY at

Buffalo. While in college, I became interested in people, diversity, & social

justice issues. I worked my early adult years in the helping profession: on the

front lines & in administration at- shelter for battered women, emancipating

girls from abuse, working with people with disabilities, YWCA, & much

more. When I became tired of bureaucracy- I joined with 2 other artists/

activists & formed the Urban Art Retreat as a place for under-represented

people to find support. Now this was a place where I could bring together

my art, & my interest in helping people, to make a difference!

3. Describe a typical week at the center. What’s going on over there?

During one week at Urban Art Retreat, we check in visitors from Africa who

have been in town for a conference & now want to see Chicago. They rent a

room in our women's residence on the second floor. Some volunteers show

up to do their weekly weeding session in the Peace Park we have created

across the street. A mother arrives wanting to register her children for our

youth program. A volunteer shows up with some donations for our organization.

We send some volunteers to visit door to door in the area to tell folks

about our programs. On Tuesday & Wednesday we have young children running

about while attending outside workshops where they remove weeds,

water flowers, make art, & learn about immigration issues. We prepare the

gallery room for a social justice issues discussion. On Thursday morning we

provide art therapy at a neighborhood residential program for people with

February Chicago Street Journal August 2017

mental health & physical disabilities, plus substance abuse issues. We teach

an adult art program at CUARC on Friday afternoon. On Saturday we are

open for visitors in the gallery We also have a youth program- they go on a

Peace Walk in the neighborhood after picking up litter.

4. Why the North Lawndale community? What attracted you to those

demographics?

We were in Uptown before locating to North Lawndale. We got tired of

slumlords not fixing the spaces we rented. We considered trying to purchase

a building. We looked at several places & decided to move where we felt

most needed- North Lawndale doesn't have as much support for people as

they could.

5. What would you say to a young person who may want to dabble in the

arts?

I recently offered a workshop for young people considering a career in the

arts. I tell people to check things out, don't limit yourself, & there is more to

being an artist than showing in a gallery. I also tell people that art-making is

healthy for everyone. If you want to use art as a hobby- go for it. It can relax

you & help you learn more about yourself.

6. What’s coming up in the near future for your organization?

Our organization, totally run by volunteers, is now looking into purchasing

the building next door to us, so that we can expand the space we offer as

housing for women in transition. It will also allow us more gallery space.

Another future plan is to offer more programs for adults who would like to

relax making art, and/or learn and heal via art-making.

Voodoo Woman by Dianne

Organization: Urban Art Retreat

7

Location: 1957 S. Spaulding Ave. at corner

of 21st, just 2 blocks west of the Kedzie

stop on the Pink line. Chicago, IL. 60623

Phone: (773) 542-9126

Contact: contact@urbanartretreat.com

Website: http://www.urbanartretreat.com

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