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Ciera McKissick is (disclaimer) a good friend of mine who I met shortly after she moved to Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood from Milwaukee. In the couple of years she’s been in the Chicago area, she’s expanded the scope of her existing blog AMFM (arts, music, fashion magazine) to go beyond promoting upcoming and local artists and creatives in written articles to organizing and curating AMFM events throughout the city.

If you’ve ever been Gozamos’s home base, Cultura in Pilsen, when it was located at 19th and Carpenter, chances are it was for an AMFM events, such as the ongoing Jazz Series that took place every Second Friday for the Art Walk in Pilsen. Since Cultura in Pilsen has since moved from that space and is now doing a residency at La Catrina Cafe, AMFM continues to hold the Jazz Series and a number of other events every month in galleries and other spaces around the city. Gozamos has have crossposted some of AMFM’s content on this site as well. The collaboration and love between Gozamos, Cultura and Pilsen and AMFM run deep.

In support of this hard-working organizer and all-around wonderful person, I’d like to call on our communities to consider donating what you can to help Ciera / AMFM obtain a space in Pilsen for a creative hub. On the GoFundMe page, Ciera writes:

Since moving to Chicago almost a little over 2 years ago, it has been my dream to operate my own space and create a hub for creatives to showcase their talent on our walls, on our stages, or through programming. I have been shopping around for spaces in Pilsen after losing my unofficial homebase with Cultura in Pilsen, with no luck, until, the one day when I decide to walk instead of bike, I stumbled upon the most amazing live/ work space I could ask for when I least suspected it. How kismet right? I find myself at a stand still because in order to secure the space I need the seed money to get it before my chance is gone! And I need it FAST because this deal is too good to be true and someone with funds will surely snatch it up. I am asking for help with the downpayment of first and last months rent, plus some moving costs and utilties to start.

Because Pilsen is undergoing a change right now, and gentrification is slowly shifting the area, it is a hot area right now for people looking to get their hands on some prime real estate. I am not just looking for real estate. It was the first neighborhood I spent time in, I live here, I know my neighbors, and I am looking to build community through the arts. I do most of my work in Pilsen because of the vibrant art, culture, community, and working class citizens I am surrounded and inspired by. (emphasis mine)

It is perhaps needless to say that times are hard out there for local community and arts-oriented organizations to afford and maintain space to carry out their important cultural work. Gozamos’ home base, Cultura in Pilsen, was just one of many community and arts spaces that has had to move or make other major accomodations and sacrifices in order to stay alive as real estate and cost of living prices go up and working class folks and people of color get pushed out of neighborhoods that we have made our homes and cultural havens against the odds. There is room for growth and change in our communities in ways that values and includes folks who have already lived there and those who are committed to supporting it.

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