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Story Retrieval Date: 4/17/2015 12:19:01 PM CST

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Courtesy of Monica Cruz

A summer day on 19th Street in Pilsen. Monica Cruz captures residents' answer to the absence of a pool, by cooling off next to an open fire hydrant:
"Anyone who knows and loves this city looks forward to the summer.
It gets extremely hot in Chicago and if you live in the hood, chances are you don't have a pool. Our solution; opening the pump and cooling off. I took this photo of the youth I work with, enjoying themselves and experimenting with their underwater cameras."

Pilsen artists look at Chicago through a different lens – via Instagram

by Martine Granby
Oct 17, 2013


Courtesy of Monica Cruz

The logo for #camerchi is pasted on a lamp post on the corner of Maxwell and Halsted to get the word out about the Instagram movement.


Courtesy of Monica Cruz

Capturing Angel's Tire Shop, Monica Cruz continues to write her visual love letter to Chicago. "There's so many unique things about Pilsen and this tire shop is one of them. During the summer you can catch Angel outside reading a book and enjoying the weather. It's almost like a mood ring, in the summertime its color was lime green and has since been painted dark grey, but it is always surrounded by the miscellany."

Two Pilsen artists are giving art lovers and Pilsen residents a chance to see Chicago represented through a different lens through their exhibit, a social movement installation called #camerachi.
The exhibit opens Friday as part of Chicago Artists Month.
Using Instagram as a vehicle, CAM featured artist Ricardo Gamboa and photographer Monica Cruz started #camerachi to give often unseen Chicago populations a visual platform.

The childhood friends were starved for certain depictions of their native city.
“The same time the city that is the source of our experiences of feeling on the outside, is also where we feel on the inside,” Gamboa said. Pursing his doctorate at New York University, Gamboa came back to Chicago for the summer and decided to collaborate with Cruz: “I’ve known her for 15 years, anything she points a camera to becomes a little gift.”
Returning to his roots as a street photographer, Gamboa wanted to focus on the people, together they sparked a movement that would capture Chicago’s forgotten images. Gamboa said, “the project attempts to teach you something about who you are, where you are and why you are.”

The project began when Gamboa and Cruz put the word out through Facebook posts, flyers to youth programs they work with and press releases to a few local bilingual newspapers. “We have about 50 people who are consistently posting.”
Posters that range from youth to 20- and 30-year-olds, which Gamboa hopes to broaden, “I would love to get some grandmas uploading.”

There are more than a thousand pictures posted.
“The images really become a catalog of memory,” Gamboa said. Whether it’s “young people dancing by an open pump, [seeing] the specifics of a bag of hot Cheetos on the ground, or a backyard barbeque. You also see the things that we still all know as Chicago, the lions outside the Art Institute or the Bean or the concerts in Millennium Park.”

A small, unassuming bar in Pilsen, family-owned Caminos De Michoacán, 1659 W. Cullerton St., will serve as the venue for the one-day exhibition. Caminos De Michoacán owner Salvador Torres Sr. has been in business for 31 years.
Torres, originally from Michoacán, Mexico has felt the effects of Pilsen’s gentrification but said it’s good for business.
Torres’s daughter, Erika, also welcomes the change in her community, “It’s a beautiful thing to watch. I just want to keep the culture. For Torres, Pilsen is a replica of Mexico, she hopes to maintain the staples of her culture, like Spanish-language signs and authentic Mexican restaurants.

“I think what’s really impressive is a lot of the Mexican-American community here in Pilsen has been able to shore up benefits from gentrification,” Gamboa said.
The assimilation of new races and cultures bring a new element to a neighborhood they knew as predominantly Mexican-American. Gamboa said he and Cruz choose this space “because it’s at this weird nexus, it’s still very frequented by locals, but a lot of kind of second-generation Mexican-Americans like myself will go there. We have our feet in different worlds.”

Chicago Artist Month neighborhood curator for Little Village and Pilsen, Brenda Hernandez, decided on Gamboa as one of the featured artist due to his work with the youth. #Camerachi was an added bonus, she said: “The project is interesting because it’s based in social media which can be quiet ephemeral.”

The future of #camerachi will depend on its contributors. For Gamboa and Cruz, the goal is to continue showing the work in unconventional ways, at “bus stops or projecting them on some dilapidated buildings or even enlarging them and repasting them onto stoops in Chicago,” Gamboa said. The ultimate goal is to really activate what art can do, by taking “art out of the spaces that neutralize it and pacify it.”