The end of school finished up in a bit of a whirlwind. Things like the party bike and union party come to mind. But, I felt like I was almost busier after school got out than during the school year. How does that even happen!?
Next up was beginning to prep for my trip to Chicago. I ended up in Pilsen a few days early and stayed in THE cutest Airbnb. My room was inside of an art gallery and the owner cooked me breakfast each day. Pilsen originally was the Czech neighborhood, but has turned into the Mexican neighborhood since then. This meant the absolute best noms. The first meal I ate was at Los Comales and for five bucks I got a vegetarian Gordita and a Jarritos. How can you even beat that. For dinner I was flying solo so I went to the bar Pl zen which was the Czech spelling of the neighborhood. There I had some veggie tostadas which were just so amazing with the most evolved flavors. I was looking for a drink not too sweet so I asked the bartender what she recommended. I got a hibiscus margarita which just the right flavor balance. The next one she made with Mezcal and that was absolutely spot on. Next day after my host made me breakfast, I was off to meet a childhood friend in south loop. We had brunch at a spot called Yolk and walked around a bit. Dinner was back in Pilsen at a new restaurant called S.K.Y. and boy did it not disappoint. I would highly recommend that one! Since it was also the fourth of July I encountered a lot of fireworks and it literally sounded like bombs were going off outside of my bedroom windows. They were so rogue and so amazing. We went up to 18th St station to watch them and the combination of rain and wind is exactly how I expected a Chicago fourth of July to be. Next day it was time for the Mexican Art Museum and if you ever end up in Pilsen, it is a must see. Things like neon signs of “Make Tacos Not War” and the most amazing Diego Rivera’s along with some more local artists.
Before I knew it, I was taking a train over to the Westin O’hare for the Young Jains of America Convention. I was invited to speak at the convention after writing an article for their publication. I guess they liked what I had to say about being an artist growing up in the Jain community. Originally, I was going to tie in my abstract work to a Jain principal. But, my go to person Neelam told me not to force. That made my life a lot easier. I conducted three sessions and ran them all the same way. I started off with a Keith Haring drawing game. I posted up four huge sheets of paper to the walls and had the kids count off by fours to create the groups. I am referring to them as kids like my students, but the reality is that the Jain Networking Forum group was just about my age. After this game was over I had everyone take their seats and I went through my little slide show. I basically had some pictures taking them through a journey from end of high school through my current day life. Two of the sessions ended with a theater game however, the college discussion went so well that we didn’t even have time for a last game.
I felt like the sessions went pretty well. All the people seemed pretty engaged and participated with everything. Each audience held some people who were perusing a career in the arts and I think it was a little cathartic for all of us to have found people who struggled with similar things. One interesting thing did happen during the high school session. They all agreed they were creative, but no one was really going to go to college for a creative field. The session included all girls and one boy. When I had the group unpack this a really backwards mindset came forward. They told me that girls go into more liberal arts fields whereas boys may tend to go into more of a STEM career. I am still thinking about this sentiment. It made me wonder what kind of a bubble some of these kids were growing up in. That is really not my reality nor one that I grew up with. Looking back on my experience with the Jain community, we were really progressive. Even down to a thing like not doing ghee bohli ever. I mean our high school patshala teacher used to be an atheist and brought a really different perspective to all the discussions we had.
But, this is how the mindset is going to change. Starting these conversations and opening people’s minds is how we are going to end up with more south east asians in the creative fields. I didn’t truly feel like I could BE an artist until my summer after graduating from undergrad while I was at Oxbow. I want the Indian community to know they can pursue the field. It is definitely not going to be the safe choice and you have to work so hard to make sure you are the best at your craft and hone your skill. But, it will leave you infinitely more happy.