Monday, September 2, 2013

Boulevard Dreamers at The Franklin

This weekend I took my small family to check out Boulevard Dreamers, a collaborative project organized by Kirsten Leenaars and Cultural ReProducer Lise Haller Baggesen at The Franklin, one of Chicago's many unusual alternative artspaces. TF is a year-round outdoor art venue created by artists Edra Soto and Dan Sullivan in their small backyard. It's located in the East Garfield Park neighborhood, far off the beaten track from the usual gallery scene (you can read more about it HERE).

In Boulevard Dreamers, studio photographs of participating groups hang in the Franklin's pavillion space like celebrity portraits in a popular restaurant, serving as a preview (and now the residue) of the night's events. The backdrop of these portraits, and the pavillion itself, is  dotted with paint-splattered LPs.  Baggesen and Leenaars describe their project as an exploration of "how we are moved by the agency of desire and the magical allure of being in the spotlight," and instead of showcasing high-profile celebrities the work makes celebrities of performers who are known mainly within their own local communities, including seasoned storytellers, teen poets, dancers, and young singer-songwriters.

On opening night, Boulevard Dreamers incorporated a fantastic lineup of short performances from different disciplines and neighborhoods throughout Chicago, including Re-birth, Marvin Tate, Najwa Dance Corps, Dan Sullivan, Anni Holm, Dasha Filippova, Emily Lansana, Charlie Redditt & Jim Dorling. We arrived a little after 6pm, just as things were getting started. The audience included a nice mix of members from Chicago's many art communities as well as people from the neighborhood. There were plenty of kids in attendance - our daughter danced in the grass alongside two other toddlers while older kids made runs between the performances and the refreshment table, which instead of wine and cheese held an impressive banquet of takeout pizza, homemade popcorn, and Edra Soto's famous pineapple upside-down cake

The performances and the location felt intimate and magical in a way that seems unique to
Boulevard Dreamers: Kirstin and Lise
Chicago's brand of domestically-linked alternative spaces, though Leenaars and Bagessen are both relatively recent transplants to the area (Leenaars hails from the Netherlands and Bagessen from Denmark). A custom marquis and holiday lights lit The Franklin's pavillion with a warm glow as Madeleine Aguilar - the amazingly talented daughter of Alberto Aguilar - played banjo and sang her own lovely indie tunes about Joan of Arc, accompanied by violinist Michael Soto. Next up were Emily Lansana and Zahra Baker, who mesmerized the audience with traditional African storytelling set to music, followed by Re-birth, a team of young spoken-word artists who delivered smart poetry about the state of the world and their neighborhood. There was so much more to see and hear... but we had to make our exit early: it was already way past our daughter's bedtime. 

The Franklin is located at 3522 W. Franklin Blvd, Chicago (West Side, East Garfield Park)
Opening Saturday August 31st 6-10 pm
Show runs from 08/31 – 09-/21
Open hours: Fridays 4-6 pm, Saturdays 4-6 pm, and by appointment


  1. It was a great show and it was great to be there with children. All the performances were spectacular specially the great finale when artist Anni Holm invited all of us up to the stage to sing a song she had written for the hosts, Edra Soto and Dan Sullivan :o).

  2. Agree! I got there somewhat late, but had a great time and loved the end.


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