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The Fight For Your Right To Peddle Art In Chicago

I am Chris Drew, the volunteer Executive Director of the Uptown Multi-Cultural Art Center for the past 24 years. I work for you without pay. Our groundbreaking lawsuit against the Chicago peddlers license is soon to be filed. The stakes are high. Your help is needed to make Chicago more friendly to artists.

Cindy is not her name but her story is common in Chicago. She is an artist facing poverty, out of a job, prolific, but unable to sell her art in public. Even with a peddlers license her opportunities are limited because there are no art scenes where she is able to sell her art. When she ventures out, she finds herself confused by the public with the homeless who they are used to seeing on the streets of Chicago. The homeless have won their First Amendment rights to meet the public in Chicago while artists have not. In the few marginalized areas of Chicago where the peddlers license allows her to sell, she is not joined by other artists in a vibrant street arts scene. The public sees her as a lone figure against a bleak cityscape and pass on by. She is unable to survive, as she should, by her art in Chicago because street art culture has been killed by unfriendly laws and prohibitive park policies.

Remember Lee Godie - the lady who became famous selling her art in front of the Art Institute? Chicago outlawed her activity the year she died, 1994, by requiring a peddlers license that defined the sidewalk before the Art Institute and most of the best locations in Chicago as prohibited areas. There have been few, if any, artists legally surviving by selling their art in public in Chicago since that time. Chicago's cultural character is largely hidden. We envision a future art Mecca of street art scenes showcasing Chicago artists in public with myriad opportunities for artists to survive by their creative activities. Chicago's streets should bloom with art and culture every spring.

How badly do we need change? When I tried to challenge the constitutionality of this peddlers license law by selling art for $1 in public the State attempted to put me in prison for up to 15 years using the unconstitutional Illinois eavesdropping law. I didn't back down. In Illinois we don't have the right to gather the evidence of what police say to us in public to defend ourselves in court. My actions are resulting in a move to change this law in Springfield this year that will bring Illinois in line with the rest of America allowing you to audio-record your police in public in Illinois. We are creating change with pure guts. We are winning real freedoms for you. Now we are also going forward with our lawsuit to increase artists' rights to sell art in public, as we originally intended.

Our peddlers license lawsuit, that we will present to the court soon, will spearhead a smart direction in the national legal debate over how to determine what art deserves First Amendment protection. In our study of the case law on artists' rights to sell art in public, we have discovered major flaws in the judicial attempts to define what art is protected by the First Amendment. There is division between differing Federal Circuit Court decisions on how to define the art which is protected by the First Amendment when it comes to the sale of art in public. We have gathered scholastic arguments for a new way for the courts to determine what art is protected.

Throughout all this turmoil of legal battles over your rights we have continued to conduct our free Screen Print Workshop for Artists. This workshop teaches artists the basics of screen printing using the least expensive and least technical methods providing them with another tool to better survive by their art. Our Art Patch Project to educate Chicago on artists rights is an on-going growing exhibit of art printed on cotton patches. We print the designs submitted to us by artists supporting our fight for their right to sell art in public and give them away to the public. Exhibits of this growing body of artwork are being prepared to travel around Chicago and other cities to increase the awareness of our movement. These two effective community art programs are a solid basis for the creative change we are engaged in. They deserve your support all by themselves.

Stay tuned for more details in our fight to support greater freedoms for everyone and artists in the new year. Support our pioneering efforts at changing Chicago and America to make them more friendly to artists in the future. Donate to the Uptown Multi-Cultural Art Center. We are a most effective, all volunteer arts non-profit making change by supporting and promoting the art and artists of our communities. Make a tax deductible donation now. Change Chicago and Illinois. The freedoms we fight for belong to you.

Chris Drew


See also:
* Lee Godie, French Impressionist
* Baglady Artist Lee Godie Is A Wacky Success

* State's Eavesdropping Law Faces Growing Challenges
* Chris Drew Arrested In Front Of Macy's


Send us your comments or complaints.


Posted on January 3, 2012

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