Understanding Environmental Struggles in Chicago

Beaubein Woods on the South Side of Chicago near the Altgeld Gardens community.

Friends is collaborating with several artistic and environmental organizations to debut Chemical (Re)Actions: On Environmental Struggles in Chicago, a project by the Goethe-Institut Chicago that enables artistic exchanges responding to three sites of critical environmental and social conflict in Chicago. As described by the Goethe-Institut, this online platform transforms the toxic and educational tours given by organizations into virtual content as a way to generate engagement with larger questions regarding pollution, industry, the environment, segregation and social equity. 

Chemical (Re)Actions is a cooperative effort with People for Community Recovery, an original founder in the environmental justice movement, the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization, who have fought successful campaigns against lead pollution in the air, soil and water; and Friends of the Chicago River.

“We are proud to collaborate with these distinguished organizations,” said Margaret Frisbie, executive director of Friends of the Chicago River. “Artistic exchange and community engagement are critical to shed light on environmental justice, pollution, and equity. Like many reaches of the river, Bubbly Creek has been manipulated, neglected, and misused throughout its history, but with appropriate investment and thoughtful stewardship Bubbly Creek can become healthy, clean, and alive with people and wildlife.”

On December 14, 2020, Chemical (Re)Actions launched The Tactical Gardens, an open call for video essays to engage with the legacy of environmental justice leader Hazel Johnson, the community of Altgeld Gardens and the work of People for Community Recovery. This week also featured an online lecture by Cheryl Johnson, Hazel Johnson’s daughter and current director of People for Community Recovery. Programming continues into 2021 featuring panel discussions, lectures, and screenings in collaboration with selected artists, P.E.R.R.O., and Friends, which will focus on the work to improve the health of 156-mile Chicago River system with emphasis on the South Fork of the South Branch of the Chicago River, widely known as Bubbly Creek. Bubbly Creek will also be featured a site for Friends’ upcoming river tour and podcast, Inside Out & Around: Urban Adventures in Nature.