John Schuermann's Window until Sept 15th, 2005.
During the last day of the recent heat-wave, artist John Schuermann had an opening at the Shoebox Gallery, a storefront window to the right of 2948 Chicago ave S, on Saturday July 16, from 6-8 pm. At a quarter to six, I (curator) helped John bring his large beverage cooler to the 2nd storey courtyard for the private reception and performance (by the band Blacki). At that time roughly ten African Americans in white T-shirts were on Chicago Av. near the gallery and the adjacent bar, Sunny's. One of them offered to help us saying that he would "just leave his jacket in John's van" while he did; we declined. He persisted saying he had talked to me the day before, which wasn't true. John and I brought the cooler up and came back down to the sidewalk in front of the gallery to meet and greet attendees, as is the Shoebox custom. Suddenly, two squad cars and three undercover cars appeared and started taking just about everyone off of Chicago Av., searching, cuffing and putting them in the back of the squads. John's wife and 5 year old son Max came down as this was going on and went back up. No gallery goers had yet arrived, but the processing went on for at least a half an hour, during which time a stream of 15 or so came. As I had been ready to document the opening I shot the bust too. We couldn't help but laugh at the absurd contrast of events, but it was no laughing matter. At one point I photographed an officer who had removed a suspect's shoes and placed them on the trunk of the squad along with what looked to be marijuana bags and personal affects. I was quickly apporached by another officer asking me what I was doing there. I pointed to the gallery and said that we were having an opening. She conferred with another officer who told me that there were undercover officers involved and that I'd have to give up the film. As a freelance news photographer it occured to me that the request was unconstitutional, but (after explaining that it was digital) I said I'd delete the incriminating shot, which I did. More attendees came and had lemonade, the squads were still there, but I did not shoot in their direction anymore. We went up after a half hour to 45 minutes and continued the reception in the courtyard.
John later wrote this (to me):
"The night definitely had some ups and downs. I know of at least 3 people that came during the first bust and left because of it. When we left at 8:30 or whatever, my family and the other family that came were talking on the street when a second and more violent bust went down. 3 cops with weapons drawn jumped 2 guys on the street. They went down immediately but the cops started beating one of the people --choking him and twisting his arms while we ushered the children into a doorway. Having my son and his little friends in the middle of that bullshit did not give me a good feeling.
But all in all, some people did come through, they checked out the art, had some lemonade and spent time on the patio with a backdrop of the city and Blacki in the foreground. What is not to love about that? And it makes for a good story".
For my part I'd say that although violent and drugged behavior expresses alienation, it is mostly dealer on dealer violence. I've come to expect these mood swings over the past year or so since I started the gallery. Despite these and other events, including two shootings (one fatal) in recent months the seriousness and conviviality for art at the Shoebox continues to fuel my passion for making art happen here and hoping that you'll come to see it.
Curator (Visual Arts)
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