Chicago’s black artists are coming home | Art Feature | Chicago Reader

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Chicago’s black artists are coming home

Despite the black exodus from Chicago, black artists are thriving and tell a story with a common thread: the city provides comfort and inspiration.

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Femdot performs at Bottom Lounge in Chicago - DAVON CLARK
  • Davon Clark
  • Femdot performs at Bottom Lounge in Chicago
Femdot
@femdotdotcom

Femi Adigun, better known as Femdot, is a Chicago-based rapper. With equally ambitious artistic and academic goals centered on hip-hop, culture, and his hometown, the young gun is taking any shot he can at success—last year alone he got his college degree from DePaul, spoke 2018 Lollapalooza into existence, played Apple’s Music Industry Summit, and released his album Delacreme 2. After leaving for a year to study at Penn State in 2013, Adigun returned to pursue a rap career back home. In Chicago, he finds the best opportunities, along with something he hasn’t found anywhere else: comfort. “It’s just a different feel. The comfortability of hearing niggas talk like me,” he says. “I’m someone who, growing up in the burbs and in the city, I’ve seen how the culture spreads on all sides of town, no matter where you’re at. It’s something about that feeling of being home, even the winter. It’s something about what that does to your kin. How that builds you.”

Femdot - DAVON CLARK
  • Davon Clark
  • Femdot
Kenyatta Forbes and one of her macrame pieces - DAVON CLARK
  • Davon Clark
  • Kenyatta Forbes and one of her macrame pieces

Kenyatta Forbes

urbanmacramefibers.com

Intersections are the thread of Kenyatta Forbes’s creativity, and that comes through in her homegrown approach to living as an artist: having her hand in multiple projects—teaching, homemade natural products, macrame fiber work, the Trading Races card game—is what helps her keep things fresh and new. In the world of macrame fiber, a typically homogenous trade, she uses a spectrum of colors and textures to make her work stand out from the fun-size beige ornaments that are often thought to be the industry standard. Though she doesn’t shy away from things like off-white plant holders, taking up half of her living room wall is a large black-stained wall hanging. She says that Chicago’s affordability gives her the option to do what she wants, how she wants it, and with the people she wants to work with. Her apartment is outfitted with Chicago-made art, and her clothing style reflects a love for the city: when I interviewed her she was wearing some Nike Blazers from a limited run that pays homage to the late Chicago DJ Timbuck2, a hoodie by Chicago luxury lifestyle boutique Sir & Madame, and she’d had a makeup artist homie who lives up the street get her ready.

Kenyatta Forbes at home - DAVON CLARK
  • Davon Clark
  • Kenyatta Forbes at home
Elise Swopes - DAVON CLARK
  • Davon Clark
  • Elise Swopes
Swopes
@swopes

Elise Swopes is a photographer and graphic designer who uses scenes from nature—giraffes and waterfalls—to turn the mundane into the marvelous. She pairs her images with down-to-earth commentary and daily affirmations that humanize her and her city. She first started using Instagram in 2013 as a portfolio to share her surreal visuals and the clean-cut camerawork she captured on her phone, which she only recently supplemented with a DSLR camera. Many of her fans know Swopes by her miragelike takes on the Chicago skyscrapers and freeze frames of the Loop amid rain, snow, fog, and other elements. Swopes’s on-the-go shooting and editing process have helped her amass hundreds of thousands of followers on social media and opened her up to gigs and collaborations with global brands like Dunkin’ Donuts and Adidas that want to appeal to Chicago at the street level. Swopes wants to put resources and opportunities in front of city youths pursuing multimedia careers, and she shares tips and secrets on living as a freelance creative on her podcast, Swopes So Dope.

Elise Swopes - DAVON CLARK
  • Davon Clark
  • Elise Swopes
Toaster - DAVON CLARK
  • Davon Clark
  • Toaster
Toaster
@toastersmodernlife

After three years in California, Tim Henderson resumed an art-based lifestyle here in Chicago, where he’s always been heavily involved with Young Chicago Authors. His paintings and dynamic poetry performances pour into each other, allowing him to appeal to crowds of all kinds. He’s done everything in performance from personifying a blind date between a spider and a bug to painting a Twilight Zone-like scene of a man trying to stop the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. His paintings feature a trademark toaster character that takes on several faces and colors and often is surrounded by clouds and texts of thoughts. Though he’s traveled across the country, it’s the city that gives him the fuel to keep creating. As a cofounder of Big Kid Slam, a free monthly poetry slam for young adults, and a teaching artist at YCA, Toaster works hard to create a community for young artists—after all, he learned to create because of community.

Toaster's artwork - DAVON CLARK
  • Davon Clark
  • Toaster's artwork

This article was produced in collaboration with City Bureau.   v

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