ElevArte presents the Deep Roots Awards, to three honorees, at the Art As Our First Language celebration on Thursday, May 23rd. Today we are spotlighting Jean Parisi; look for forthcoming interviews with our other honorees.
What does it mean to you to receive the Deep Roots award from ElevArte Community Studio?
I am honored to receive this award. I am so proud that ElevArte Community Studio has survived all this economic turmoil, difficult times and changes, and continues to provide our community with an important outlet for creative participation and offer us all an opportunity to experience the arts. I am so pleased that ElevArte has remained true to that mission which was set forth way back in 1978 when I joined with other neighborhood artists to share my skills as an artist with my community. We believed then, and still do believe, that the arts could make a difference in the lives of the community.
I am honored to be considered 'deeply rooted' by ElevArte Community Studio, which is truly a deeply rooted organization in this, my, community.
What was your first experience with the arts and how has it impacted you?
I have the good fortune to have a family that has always supported creative and individual expression. I remember eating dinner and looking at a wall filled with reproductions of paintings that my mother would regularly change. These paintings made me curious, they made me think, and they inspired me to make my own. My grandmother provided dramatic readings of our bedtime stories! My father was very creative with his many improvised games at our parties, in addition to recycling everything, and forever fixing up our home. I found myself around tools, materials and heated discussions about not just our life but also the world around us.
In middle school, I had an opportunity to go to Hull House Art and Music Camp. There I was exposed to the full arts experience - music, dance, theater, and visual arts. Professional artists directed the Camp, and professional artists taught the sessions, so my exposure to the arts was truly the best for a young person. This early and on-going exposure to the arts had a positive impact on my life. I found an outlet for my own expression and was given encouragement to find my own voice.
Why are the arts important to communities in Chicago?
The arts are an important form of communication that brings a community together. The arts provide an outlet for creative expression and an opportunity for a community to increase cultural awareness, to share experiences, and to further understand each other. The arts are there for those of us who have difficulty articulating ourselves in conventional ways.
Where can we see your performance and visual installation work?
Each fall, I create a new installation for the Pilsen Open Studios in our studio on Morgan Street. I can be found performing on the street and often in other odd locations. I continue to teach in several schools - both drama and visual arts, and in the process of teaching I am often performing! Lionel Bottari (my husband, one of the first Pros Arts artists, and a current ElevArte board member) and I continue performing the TV Pros Hotline 21 show every other Monday at 4:30 on CAN TV Channel 21. This show that we started (with Douglas Grew) in 1990 has a full range of our original puppets and characters.
I also perform throughout the year, bringing traditional Italian characters and traditions alive to audiences from the Iowa cornfields to the seniors living at Montgomery Place.