What did you think of the Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival?

Please share your comments here.  What were the highlights?  What could be better?  What are you sorry you missed?  When did you go?  Did you combine it with Open Streets? With the Farmers Market?  Did you visit a local business?  Did you discover a local business new to you?  What do you want folks to know?

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17 Responses to What did you think of the Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival?

  1. Doug vanderHoof says:

    What a treat! I ran into friends at the food tables in Logan Square, across from the stage -great South American sounding group- and hit all the art storefronts I could find. Voice of the City was good, just off Milwaukee on Diversey, and Peter whose last name escapes me, had a great temporary gallery full of street art. A functionary from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and I had a nice chat with Peter.
    Not enough healthy food, though. I had to settle for elote from a vendor in front of the Mega Mall.
    Very inviting overall, ambitious and successful, I thought.

    Doug: The Voice of the City space housed “Logan Square Connections” curated by Jane Michalski, and the street art gallery was Peter Lemke’s Collection.

    And next year 🙂 for food choices, try the local restaurants and businesses at their place of business, e.g. for a taco to go, or pick up some fruit at Sunrise Fresh Market.

    Glad you enjoyed it! ~ Lynn

  2. I really loved the festival. My only regret was waking up sick Sunday morning and not being able to explore the south-end galleries.

    My favorite aspects were things other people may have found objectionable: I liked that Milwaukee Avenue was the same chaotic mess it tends to be (not all dressed up and sanitized for visitors); I loved the productive use of so many empty storefronts, regardless of whether their structural aesthetics screamed ‘art;’ and I loved the occupation of newly inscribed public spaces (like the stretch of Milwaukee between the 2 parcels of green space on the Square), even if it means some snarled traffic and confused drivers. We have that anyway on the Square; let’s just modify it permanently and stretch one of the true jewels of our neighborhood!

    Great event! Kudos to all the planners. Sure made our neighborhood seem lively, engaged, invested, and diverse.

    Christy: Sorry you had to miss some of it, and hope you’re feeling better.

    I’m with you on permanently closing Milwaukee Avenue where it travels through the square itself. I think some reconfigurations of the lanes, proper painting and signage and people’s familiarity with the new pattern would quickly overcome any confusion (beyond the normal what do I do at a traffic circle!). ~ Lynn

  3. Linnea says:

    I was happy it started on Friday as I wouldn’t be able to attend on Saturday or Sunday. Imagine my disappointment that most artists and vendors were not set up by 2:30 p.m. on Friday. I walked from California past the Square and saw a couple of vendors and maybe 4 artists. From what I was able to see I think it was a great idea and a good first attempt. Next year I hope to be able to go on Saturday and Sunday and actually see something. As usual, as a pedestrian trying to cross any of the streets at the Square was a frustrating and very dangeous adventure.

    Linnea: Agreed, the Square is a frustrating experience for pedestrians, something that needs to be addressed.

    The festival got a rolling start on Friday with most of the art galleries opening at 4:00 p.m. I’m sorry you missed most of them. There was a wide variety of art that made good uses of the venues and vacant spaces along Milwaukee. ~ Lynn

  4. Jen Kanable says:

    I thought this fest was a great addition to the neighborhood. I live really close to the Crown Liquor stage so it was nice to hear some of the bands playing from my living room. I loved seeing all the art and especially loved the Logan Square Preservation art/ photography. Would have loved to see more of that. I am not sure many people knew that the fest went all the way up on Milwaukee-it became kind of desolate for awhile there with nothing to see or do. The trolley was nice though and much appreciated. It would have been nice for some of the Polish restaurants to be selling some street food for the people watching the bands on that north stage. Overall, great fest, loved seeing the LS hood so bustling! Hope they do this every year!!

  5. Mark Bishop says:

    It was wonderful! I’ve lived in LS for 9 years and for the first time I found myself wanted to get over to Milwaukee Ave to be part of what was happening.

    Small businesses were going great business. People were walking around. There was an energy in the street that I’ve never seen.

    I hope this happens again next year.

  6. Robert Castillo says:

    I participated on all 3 days and loved that the festival had such a diverse range of activities and had people out on the street in droves.

    Me and my husband visited artists’galleries/studios, took in a film, listened to a Blah Blah Blah at Crown Tap, attended a music program at Norweigan Lutheran by a musician from from St. Lukes church and caught up with old neighbors and friends.

    Already looking forward to next year’s MAAF!!!

  7. Jen, Mark and Robert: Thanks for your comments. I too am so glad the festival turned out so well and am looking forward to another! ~ Lynn

  8. Jamie says:

    I loved it! I can’t wait to do it again next year. My mom was in town for her birthday, so it was a great, cheap and exciting way to celebrate. My only disappointment – and I only have myself to blame – is that I didn’t go into enough of the “galleries”; I would’ve liked to have seen more of the art up close.

    It would be awesome if some of those empty storefronts could be permanent galleries….

  9. Carter says:

    hey Robert, I saw Blah Blah Blah as well, they were great! we had family obligations all weekend and didn’t get to take in much else of it, but definitely look forward to next year.

    I also look forward to something being done to make the Square more pedestrian friendly, they’ve been promising that for years!

  10. Loved it. Just wished I could have devoted more time to checking out all the artists, bands and vendors. Hope it returns next year, and am happy to volunteer to make that so.

    Lehia: I’ll put you on the list to volunteer! ~ Lynn

  11. Emily says:

    It’s a cool idea and I would love to see it back next year, especially if I have more time to devote to attending!

    As for suggestions, I would’ve liked better organization, some sense of a trolley schedule, and a clearer sense of where stuff was. I know I missed a lot of the vendors and gallery spaces and stuff because I simply lacked a clear idea of where to expect to see a concentration of stuff. The maps helped and the free trolleys helped, but it took me quite awhile to find a map and I never did successfully catch one of the trolleys.

    I would’ve personally preferred it if stuff had been a little more concentrated/consistent. Although it was cool to actually get to check out businesses I didn’t even know were on Milwaukee Ave, trying to walk the whole festival got a little discouraging since there tended to be significant stretches with very little overt participation.

    It was great to see so many people come out and to have the chance see so many talented local artists and musicians, though! Just as someone with limited time to spend at the festival each day, I felt like I didn’t really have the chance to take as much in as I would’ve liked due to the layout concerns mentioned above.

    Emily: Thanks for the thorough comments and suggestions for improvements. Every little bit of information helps shape the future. ~ Lynn

  12. Matt Beaton says:

    I thought the Arts Festival was FANTASTIC, especially when it tied right into the Open Streets activities. My family and I were out biking on the Boulevards all day on Saturday, and in the Square Saturday night and Sunday. I second (or is it third?) the motion to permanently close down Milwaukee Avenue at the square. People would figure it out, and the park could become much more usable.
    The part I loved the most was the diversity of participation and exhibits. During Open Streets, we rode through Humboldt Park and down to Garfield Park, and along the way talked with many neighbors and other Chicagoans that we would never have come into contact with otherwise. What a fantastic way to bring all of our diverse populations together! Usually I feel like we live in such a divided city, but this festival really brought out the best in everyone. Let’s do it again next year!

    Oh yeah, and we should have Open Streets every Sunday in the summer. Or at least once a month…

  13. Ann says:

    I felt the same way about the concentration of events. I took a walk up Milwaukee to Central Park or so, and there was a lot of non-participating space in between.

    However, the activity around the monument was fantastic. It was a nice gathering space for people, and there was some great music.

    Shutting down Milwaukee permanently would be disastrous. It’s hard enough trying to navigate a car around the area, especially for an unfamiliar driver. The additional traffic diverting north on Milwaukee made it challenging for the traffic at the Logan/Albany stop sign to proceed. That being said, I would love it if the Farmer’s Market could be in that space on Sundays.

    For a first attempt at a neighborhood festival, it was very impressive. Tying it in with Open Streets was such a good idea. There’s a lot of potential for growth, and I’m looking forward to next year.

  14. Carter says:

    I live north of Diversey & definitely noticed the drop off in activity as you headed north, but it was just the first year – I would vastly prefer to see this develop over the longer stretch of Milwaukee over a few years than become yet another ultra-congested event which is concentrated around largely one (albeit large and awesome one at Logan) intersection.

    and I’m still holding out hope that one day we’ll get some sort of pedestrian bridge to connect the monument park with the boulevard one(s). that TIF money is just sitting there making somebody besides us a lot of interest…

  15. Rob Reid says:

    I’m so glad I survived a near miss with a car while crossing in to the Square for the first time last weekend- it turned out to be a great festival.

    My one *intentional* visit was planned around a band on the schedule, but for me, the high points were the unexpected “discoveries.” On Saturday I set out for a short errand to pick up some Polish Rye from Kurowski’s and ended up getting back home three hours later, having seen an African jazz band I’d never heard of and a mini-traffic jam in Jackowo induced by rubberneckers stalling their cars to gawk at “Polish” Elvis. Finding art galleries in vacant storefronts was much like a childhood easter egg hunt- even on Sunday by my fifth or sixth visit I was still discovering galleries I had somehow missed on my first visit, and the work inside was more generally diverse and often edgier than at most Chicago festivals.

    The most exciting aspect of the festival for me was the quality and diversity of the music program- gypsy jazz, country square dance, soul, African, etc. mostly by bands I hadn’t heard of and sometimes in genres I hadn’t heard. While I was disappointed that many of my neighbors didn’t even get word that there was a festival going on until last weekend, I was surprised by the number of musicians from across Chicago that I ran into on the street- not those on the bill, but folks who appreciated what seemed to be a music program second in range only to the Cultural Center’s World Music Festival.

    Back at work on Monday, I told coworkers about toy camera photography, an artist’s book about how to sneak into movie theaters, and the birth of Cole’s as a promising new music venue. “Never heard of that festival,” they said, but now they know. Yikes, I just realized I missed the mini film-festival!

    I hope the character and layout of the festival doesn’t change as it (inevitably?) grows, but wouldn’t it be nice to have strolling Mariachis serenade streetside diners (like they do in a handful of neighborhood bars/restaurants) and a one page printed guide, “New Neighbor’s Guide to Supermarket Polish” to help newcomers experience and appreciate what still remains of the Polish community?

    Rob: Sounds like you found the perfect way to enjoy the festival. I had wanted to see, but ending up missing that gypsy jazz group. 😦 And I missed a couple of gallery spaces too, even tho I did know where they all were. Love your “Supermarket Polish” idea! ~ Lynn

  16. Carter says:

    who was the gypsy jazz group, btw? having played in Swing Gitan I thought I knew them all, was it something Lou Marini put together?

    Carter: Sorry, I don’t know all the players, and I don’t know if Rob was referring to the same band I was, Eastern Blok, and I don’t even know if it would fall in the genre of what musicians would classify as gypsy jazz. ~ Lynn

  17. Carter says:

    Thanks Lynn – I see it’s a group with Goran Ivanovic, so probably not what is usually called gypsy jazz (specific to the style Django Reinhardt pioneered), but it’s definitely great!

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