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Three years ago I moved from sunny southern California to the windy city, and I’m so glad I did.
I was sitting down with Jenny, one of my professional and creative mentors, the other day who was helping me revise the script for a play I’m producing for this year’s Rhinoceros Theatre Festival. She was asking me what my plans were for after graduation, and I told her I planned on applying for a number of teaching jobs, make a lot of work, and build my creative community and career here in Chicago. Jenny affirmed this value of being rooted in a place. She herself has been involved in Chicago’s theatre scene for over 25 years and could testify to the benefits of committing to a community for an extended period of time.
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I didn’t plan on staying here when I first moved to Chicago. My plan was to stay for a year and move back to Phnom Penh to continue working at the art center I was involved with. However, I really fell in love with this city and saw the potential for Chicago to be the launching off point of my professional artistic practice. Below are some of the reasons I personally love living as an artist in Chicago:
1. The ability to survive making what you want to make. Unlike Los Angeles or New York, Chicago is an affordable city to live in and is filled with opportunities to show experimental avant garde work. You don’t need to go through the Hollywood system to be making films, theatre, music, etc. and make it in Chicago.
2. Community that encourages interdisciplinary collaboration. This might be more directly related to my experience at Columbia College. But since being here I have had the opportunity to collaborate with dancers, directors, sculptures, painters, community developers, video artists, and musicians. Some of my most rewarding creative experiences have been collaborating with these individuals.
3. Chicago Artist Resource. A wonderful organization that has over the last few years really worked to help advance the careers of a number of Chicago-based artists.
There are so many opportunities for artists to show work here in Chicago it’s ridiculous. I love this city, the culture, the seasons, and community, and I don’t see myself leaving any time soon.