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Links Hall: local performance grounds for artist community

Wed, Oct 24, 2012

Founders Bob Eisen [left], Carol Bobrow [Center] and Charlie Vernon.

Less than a year ago, Dmitri Peskov was burned out. The dancer and performer was tired of his desperate search for work and the low wages and long commutes that came with the jobs he managed to find. In short, he was tired of living the life of an artist. But before he let his artistic flame flicker out, he applied for a residency at Links Hall. And to his surprise, he got it.

“That residency, in some ways, I suppose you could say, saved me or just allowed me to keep going,” Pes¬kov said. “I think any artist, however solitary as I am, has to have a sense of being needed by someone.”

Links Hall is a nonprofit organiza¬tion that provides support and perfor¬mance space for artists. Founded by dancers and choreographers Bob Eisen, Carol Bobrow and Charlie Vernon in 1978, much of its performances are movement-based, but they have also welcomed experimental theater, music and puppetry among other art forms.

Part of the support aspect of the organization is the LinkUP residen¬cies, through which Peskov has found a home. Two out of about 25 appli¬cants are chosen twice a year for the residency. These artists are provided with housing, a small stipend, rehearsal and performance space, and a mentor. In exchange, the artists must put on a show at the end of their residency.

“Our goal is to provide small amounts of financial support to help them really go after what they are de¬veloping an inquiry on over these six months and then have money at the end of it, hopefully to be able to support them as they continue forward in their practice,” said Roell Schmidt, the executive director of Links Hall.

Although the money, space and time are crucial in maintaining the life of an artist, the knowledge that someone thinks your work is important is just as crucial. Meredith Miller, the other artist currently in residence at Links Hall, credits her productivity to this.

“One of the greatest chal¬lenges of being an artist is, ‘does anybody actually care if I finish this project?’ ” Miller said. “Having this panel of col¬leagues and people I respect so much watching to see if I actually bring this to completion gives me the extra drive that I need to really finish it.”

Miller is working on a one-woman cabaret show with jazz music, puppetry, specialty props and numerous costumes. Similarly, Peskov is also working on a one-man show that is partially reflective on his life and family history. In a way, this residency brings Peskov full circle, as he also performed his first show at Links Hall years ago.

All of the people on staff at Links Hall can sympathize with the struggles of artists like Miller and Peskov, as they are all artists themselves. They understand how important a residency like this can be, especially when it seems to come at just the right time in an artist’s life. According to Schmidt, this proximi¬ty to artists allowed them to more quickly respond to the needs of artists after the economic downturn than larger institu¬tions would have.

In addition to supporting local artists, Links Hall also reaches out to aspiring performance curators. Three people are chosen each year to become Links Hall artistic associates. The organization pro¬vides these curators with administrative support to explore a theme or issue the artistic associate chooses. Past artistic associates include Guggenheim fellow Holly Hughes, who curated a festival in May called Standing Feet that explored the bond between humans and animals.

Another pair of artistic associates brought nine Cuban artists to Chicago after seeing a commonality between Cuban and Chicago art when they vis¬ited Cuba as students at the University of Chicago. They paired the emerg¬ing Cuban artists with similar Chicago artists to create new work. These cu¬rators are now working on an exhibi¬tion in Havana that will premiere next summer.

“Part of what Links hopes to do is always find ways to open the door,” Schmidt said. No matter where you came from or what boundaries you hope to break in art, Links Hall not only opens doors, but also gives a voice to artists and an audience to listen to that voice.

“I’m telling stories,” Peskov said. “Some of them really happened, some of them did not, but they’re important to me. And maybe they’ll be important to someone else, at least one other person. And then we have a beginning of art.”

Applications for next year’s resi¬dencies and artistic associates will be due in December. For more in¬formation, visit www.linkshall.org. Links Hall is in Wrigleyville, located at 3435 N. Sheffield Ave., Chicago.

Written by Colleen Connolly,
StreetWise Editorial Intern


One Response to “Links Hall: local performance grounds for artist community”

  1. Long live Art !!! Sometimes we forget about all of the work that is done ahead of time in order to make art happen !


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