Producing Local Color: A Study of Networks and Resource Mobilization in Three Local Chicago Communities

March, 2004

This study of networks and resource mobilization in three localities shows how professionals and local residents involved in art production accessed resources through social circuits to create markers of the racial, ethnic and class dimensions of their communities. By tracing art production circuits through connections of participants in three distinct urban communities, I saw how mutual concerns for the locality brought circuit participants together and sustained art production activity. I compared art production in three Chicago communities with distinct racial and ethnic composition: one predominantly Black/African American (Bronzeville), one predominantly White/Hispanic/ Mexican American (Pilsen) and one diverse (Rogers Park). Mutual concern was more prominent in circuit connections than trust or reciprocal agreements. Data collected from interviews with 80 people as well as participant observation at their events showed significantly more arts activity within an area than is evident through public listings. Variation among the three localities resulted from the interplay of competing concerns including collective identity, artistic autonomy, property ownership, local sovereignty, youth education and local problem solving. Rather than reproducing historic inequalities by misrecognizing a dominant culture as the legitimate culture of the community (Bourdieu 1984), participants produced symbolic meanings that contested historic subordinate statuses by representing community history, its people and its potential vitality to itself and outsiders. This “local color” became another resource to be exploited by individuals and organizations.

Also see Appendix B

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