The Art of Living

Ariel Cheung, Thomas Connors, Laura Hine, Jaclyn Jermyn and Andrea Mills | November 26, 2018 | Feature Features National

These local creators are doing things their own way—from shedding light on the South Side through comic books to redefining the city's skyline to putting women center stage in the theater world—and we couldn't be more inspired.
Earlier this year, Hanna Brictson left Visceral Dance Chicago to form her own eponymous dance company.

Hanna Brictson
A veteran performer is moving dance in new directions.

“I’m all about gut feeling,” says choreographer and dancer Hanna Brictson, who, this past spring, left Visceral Dance Chicago to strike out on her own, forming Hanna Brictson and Dancers. “I’m nearly 33 years old,” she says. “For dance, that’s old. But this is what the world is telling me to do.” Brictson, who has been dancing for three decades, has already had plenty of opportunities to put her stamp on the local dance community, staging work at Soho House and for Chicago Ideas Week, but her big break was debuting her piece “My Darling” at this year’s Dance for Life fundraiser. The massive work involved 37 dancers in shiny red costumes, grooving to The Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody.” It was a performance that stayed true to Brictson’s choreographic ethos, being both technically impressive and thoroughly lighthearted. Moving forward, one of her goals is to change how people see dance, noting that she just doesn’t see her friends going downtown to see shows. “I see them at cool spots where they can have a drink and watch dance for a little while,” she says. “I’m cool with that. I can do that.” In the meantime, she’s just happy that the community continues to show interest in her work. “You know you’re doing something right if that’s happening,” she says. “I’m not going to second-guess that.” –JJ

Carlos Tortolero
A pioneer brings art—and more—to his community.

“We want to be a part of the community, not apart from the community,” says Carlos Tortolero, founder and president of Pilsen’s National Museum of Mexican Art. A former Chicago Public Schools teacher, Tortolero’s first instinct has always been to serve the people around him. “Those in the art world said, ‘You can’t have an art museum in a working-class neighborhood,’” he says. “We proved them wrong—and admission is free.” As the country’s first accredited Latino art museum, it features a world-class collection but also acts as a cultural center for the neighborhood, hosting everything from graduations to women’s health screenings. “We want people to know that this is their museum,” Tortolero says. Its annual Día de Muertos exhibition invites guests to leave notes for relatives who have passed; this year’s exhibit included a mural painted by the parents of a student killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. “You know in sci-fi movies when people gather somewhere to figure out how to fight the monsters?” Tortolero asks. “That’s the kind of space I think we are.” –JJ


Photography by: