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CFA CRASHERS: Lavon Pettis

Sunday, May 3, 2015 ,  4PM

Black Cinema House
7200 S. Kimbark Ave.
Chicago, IL 60619 , go to map

photo by Foster Garvin

We are delighted to re-introduce our guest-programmer series, CFA CRASHERS! Once again we have invited some of our favorite locals into our vault to curate a film program all their own (absolutely no rules or strings attached)….but this time around we’ll be hopping around town, screening 16mm films at a location selected by our guest-programmer or “Crasher.” The general motivation behind the series remains the same: to have a lot of different communities and voices engaging with our materials, as we’re increasingly interested in collaborating with those who are eager to mix it up with the CFA films in ways not thought of before. All films will be presented in 16mm (plus Super 8mm this time around!).

This May we are thrilled to have Lavon Nicole Pettis selecting the films. Lavon is a Creative Business Development Specialist who blends her background of Psychology and Sociology into the world of creative professionals such as fine artists, writers, actors, and cultural arts musicians. It is her goal to connect artists to galleries, critics, collectors and various communities in support of the artists’ work. She is especially keen on integrating music, storytelling, and cultural arts into the fields of education and community outreach.

Lavon’s program consists entirely of Chicago-made films that reflect her strong interest in art and community. She chose the Black Cinema House to present her film selections, which include a documentary on acclaimed Chicago sculptor, Richard Hunt, as well as a documentary on inspiring poet, teacher, and Chicagoan, Gwendolyn Brooks. Filling out the program is The Game -  a student film made by South Shore High School students in the early 1970′s and Super 8 home movies shot on the near-west side by Chicago artist & muralist, Don McIllvaine. The program will end with a trailer of the upcoming documentary Chronicles of Summer: Childhood in South Shore, which Lavon is producing with director Ife Olatunji.

Doors open at 3:30pm. Seating is limited, so we ask that attendees RSVP in advance here. Please note that we cannot guarantee seats for attendees who do not RSVP.

Here’s what Lavon has to say about her program:

“When Nancy invited me to host a CFA Crashers for Chicago Film Archives I had a general concept of the type of films I want to show. My research interest includes creativity and how it impacts our neighborhoods. What type of social impact does creative energy have on people in our neighborhoods? How do we assess the role of the arts on one’s identity development? One way we can assess creativity is by examining the materials people create and how one tells his or her story. I tend to get excited when people share their personal stories with me! It’s only natural I gravitated towards a love affair with arts. I appreciate being able to look as someone’s situation from an abstract perception of painting, performance, poetry, film or theater. The arts like everything else is rooted in politics. The politics of art impact how we live, learn, and our resources, and sometimes determines the fruits of our labor as communities and neighbors.

After weeks of consulting with Anne about the footage available at CFA, I finally narrowed down films I believe will allow us to reflect on stories about everyday people involved in the arts in our neighborhoods. This selection is about people learning, working, and striving to make a living in Chicago! The films I selected are: Creative Person: Gwendolyn Brooks, three silent films from the Don McIlvaine Collection about a near-west side art class for children called Art and Soul that will be played with live music, a documentary film on sculptor Richard Hunt, The Game, and a documentary I am producing with director Ife Olatunji on the identity-development of a few girl’s in our neighborhood!

I believe these films highlight the resilience of people in Chicago’s neighborhoods. These films are about different struggles people went through and how the arts provides opportunities for people to THRIVE! The arts can be an in road to potential and self-discovery! The film The Game produced at the age at the age of 17 by Southshore High School student Wayne Willliams definitely will lead to us to ponder somethings & start a stimulating conversation. Films will be followed by a brief discussion about arts, education, politics, and community!”

RICHARD HUNT: SCULPTOR , 1970, Encyclopedia Britannica, 16mm., Color (slightly faded), Sound, 14 min.
Using materials from Chicago’s junkyards, Richard Hunt creates sculpture which has brought him acclaim. As he is shown collecting materials, he talks about his way of life, his childhood, and his wish to serve as an example to his community.

CREATIVE PERSON: GWENDOLYN BROOKS, 1966, WTTW, 16mm., B&W, Sound, 29 min.
Ms. Brooks reads from her verses and discusses her life and works. Photographic depictions of the atmosphere are the environment in which her poetry takes place. From WTTW’s The Creative Person series.

THE GAME, 1971, Wayne Williams (instructor: Jerry Aronson), 16mm., Color, Sound, 4 min.
Shot and made only a few blocks from the Black Cinema House at South Shore High School, THE GAME is an allegory on the wastefulness of war and the duplicity of those who wage it. Student filmmaker Wayne Williams, who was 17 at the time, cuts back and forth between a chess game and a guerrilla theater war game to underscore the sense of importance of the fighters and the cynicism of those who control their lives – and deaths. The film is part of a series of student films that all won awards at the 1971 Young Chicago Filmmaker’s Festival.

Select HOME MOVIES from the Don McIllvaine Collection, 1970s, Don McIllvaine, Super 8mm., Color, Silent, approx 15 min.
Chicago’s great mural artist, Don McIlvaine (1930-2005), is known for his large scale street paintings of everyday struggles. Don taught at the University of Illinois at Chicago and was the second director of Chicago’s Lawndale art gallery, Art & Soul*, a project of the Conservative Vice Lords, where young people could express their thoughts in artistic form. Working with youth in his Lawndale neighborhood, Don elevated mural art to national attention in 1969-1970 with six dynamic and politically conscious street paintings. Interviewed for a 1970 Time magazine article about diversity in visual art, he declared, “People decorate the street because that’s where their life is.” These select home movies from Don McIllvaine’s Collection document scenes from Art & Soul where McIllvaine worked with children to paint powerful, aggressive and insistent murals throughout Lawndale. They also offer a rare glimpse at Don’s mural work, which has now, tragically, been almost entirely demolished.  All home movies will be accompanied with live music.

Chronicles of Summer: Childhood in South Shore trailer, 2015, Ife Olatunji, digital projection, Color, Sound, 3 min.
Chicago based filmmaker Ife Olatunji is currently putting on the finishing touches on her new feature length documentary, “Chronicles of Summer: Childhood in South Shore,” which centers around 3 close friends, Indigo, Ameera, and Akili all 8 years old and growing up on the South Side of Chicago. As Ms. Olatunji states, both girls were given the opportunity to participate in visual and performance arts after school. But when school ends for the summer, it was up to the parents in the South Shore neighborhood of Chicago where they live to find a safe and affordable education for their daughters.

*A wonderful & detailed exploration of the Art & Soul program via Rebecca Zorach in Art Journal: “Art & Soul: An Experimental Friendship between the Street and a Museum”


Black Cinema House
7200 S. Kimbark Ave.
Chicago, IL 60619
go to map