IMAN’s Janice Bond

CIW’s Local Look invites local entrepreneurs, social pioneers and artists to share their projects and insights.  This week, we talked to Janice Bond, the Director of Arts and Culture at the Inner-city Muslim Action Network and a Communications Strategist and Cultural Curator.  Originally from Houston, Texas, Bond has chosen to work with Chicago communities on the southwest side.    

Photo courtesy of Janice Bond.
Why did you choose Chicago?
Let’s say, “Why do I still choose Chicago as a base for my work?”  Whether it’s fine art, music, fashion, photography or poetry, Chicago is truly the heartbeat of the nation.  Chicago is always going to be uniquely Chicago.  You can build things here out of nothing.  You have this fast pace, like any major metropolitan city, but on a Sunday you can walk down some of the same streets and they are completely quiet.  And you can look at some of these murals and artwork, and you can still feel the pulse in the cement from a festival the day before.  Chicago is a city of do-ers and of dreamers; it’s a city built on suspicion, tragedy and whimsy.  So, why Chicago?  I would say, why not?
If you could go back in time before you started this project and share one piece of advice with yourself, what would you tell yourself?
If I could give myself a piece of advice, it would be, in two words: Listen closely.  Things are what they are, but not always what they seem, especially as it pertains to the arts and music business.  There are so many different languages layered on the creative.  Unless you really listen, it can be hard to decipher.  [In other words], you can get yourself in a lot of trouble thinking you know too much, or you miss out on some really great opportunities not allowing yourself to be open or to be taught or flexible about even your own dreams.
What are your next steps?
Onward and upward—I always say that to myself.  I’ll be in the arts working in various communities and with artists for the rest of my life in some capacity.  That was almost a scary realization to come to before 30, but at the same time it was almost liberating to discover about myself.  Going forward, I’ll continue to connect, to share and to encourage people to create. 
We want to be in the know!  Name one person, place or thing that you think is one of Chicago’s best-kept secrets—a secret until now, of course.
The Silver Room, 1442 North Milwaukee Ave.  It’s been there around 15 years, and the owner is Eric Williams.  Eric has owned several cultural institutions in Chicago over the course of around 20 years.  From my first week in Chicago, I have been to numerous concerts, book signings, fashion shows, art openings with high-caliber artists…you name it.  He has provided a platform for local to international jewelry designers to sell their wares.  He has a block party that he’s self-funded and produced that is the most fun, family-friendly event with great music in Chicago.  I’ve never seen a person leave [The Silver Room] and not be turned on to a different type of music or art.  It literally is a cultural hub in the city…and I think when Eric decides to move on to something else that void will be felt. 
Q&As are edited for clarity and length.

Erin Robertson is managing editor at Chicago Ideas.

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