Art in progress

On most days, the art within Ageless Arts Tattoo skillfully combines ink and flesh. This past weekend, though, the parlor instead became a gallery of photographs, each work by a local artist clothes-pinned to a line of string running along the white walls. It was the sixth-annual Little Village Arts Festival, an opportunity for appreciating art and the vibrant neighborhood that produced it. The festival included paintings, improv comedy workshops, photography, and a student gallery, among other exhibits. Abdi Maya, the event’s organizer, explained that the purpose of the festival was not only to help artists come together, but also to bridge a divide between the artists and the community at large.

The festival, which was volunteer-run and sponsored by the Little Village Chamber of Commerce, turned local businesses into impromptu galleries, placing the neighborhood on exhibit alongside its art. Patrons visited Catedral Café to pick up maps and event information, passed the hot pink and orange corner store, and even stepped into panaderías for a pastry on their way to the next gallery space.

Unfortunately, many of these makeshift galleries remained mostly empty, leaving Little Village residents alone to go about their everyday business. “We need more publicity,” Maya said as she distributed fliers. “Media, the newspapers, even door-to-door. More needs to be done.” However, Maya acknowledged that the problem isn’t entirely external: “It can be hard to get people interested. They are busy. They need to go to the grocery store and to work.”

The lack of attention doesn’t indicate a lack of talent, though. This year, the fliers, posters, and other advertising materials were created by graphic designer and long-time contributor to the festival Laura Vergara. Mike Silva, a first time contributor, displayed his linoleum block prints of intricate designs with a subtly gothic nature. Yet, even Silva almost missed out: “I live two blocks away and I hadn’t even heard of [the festival] until this year.”

Despite the lackluster response from some of the older residents and visitors to the neighborhood, the spirit of the Little Village Arts Festival was buoyed by the enthusiasm of its youngest participants. The Sticker/Urban Art Gallery bustled with families and smiling tots. Children ran around the gallery space learning about, interacting with, and creating their own graffiti art while watchful festival volunteers guided them along with helpful pointers. With such a generation waiting in the wings, the best of the neighborhood’s art scene seems like its still in the works.