Three Questions: Q&A with Sarah Dodson (director, MAKE Literary Productions) and Miguel Jiménez (founder and director, Lit & Luz Book Club)
Lit & Luz Festival of Language, Literature and Art
Location: Chicago, Illinois
The Lit & Luz Festival of Language, Literature, and Art is an ambitious cultural exchange between writers and visual artists from Mexico and Chicago. Participants are asked to bridge language and cultural differences, along with artistic disciplines, and to expand our cultural conversation by exploring vital public issues facing citizens in both countries.
MAKE Literary Productions
Founded in 2004, MAKE Literary Productions, NFP, supports, promotes, and engages contemporary Chicago writers and artists through multidisciplinary arts events and international cultural exchange.
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Q1: How do you see the arts/culture/humanities as being essential?
Sarah Dodson: The arts are essential to understanding our place in the world. They help us to make sense of our own experiences, while putting them in greater context. Through the arts, we engage with others’ unique perspectives, and we experience how individuals and communities translate the worlds around them and inside of them.
Miguel Jiménez: Thinking of some of the programming we do throughout the year, in addition to the Lit & Luz Festival, I think the arts and humanities present opportunities for conversation and to reflect on multiple issues – whether they’re issues in the present or in the past. It actually brings people together to have conversations that otherwise wouldn’t happen. Sometimes we read books in our own private spaces or go see art by ourselves, but through this programming people have the opportunity to talk after an event, or after reading a book. We’ve had participants from all over the city, and in this past year doing it online have had people from Mexico City, from the east coast, and from downstate Illinois. We’ve also figured out how to do live translation during a book club chat, so the chat itself is bilingual.
Q2: What is the most important thing people should know about your work?
Sarah Dodson: That though we’re primarily a literary arts organization, our work is proudly multidisciplinary. We have always felt that there are symbiotic relationships between disciplines. That notion was originally seen in the magazine that begot MAKE the nonprofit, then in the release parties accompanying issues, and especially now in our largest program, the Lit & Luz Festival, which is both multidisciplinary and international.
Miguel Jiménez: I’d add that one of the things that makes our programs unique is the collaborative work between artists, in Mexico and in the U.S. Because what ends up happening is that artists bring in their experiences from both countries, putting those experiences and happenings in our separate countries and finding connections and ways to put those things in to dial through art. What comes out are powerful pieces that create these threads of connection between our countries. At the very least, conversations that are ongoing.
Q3: Who makes your work possible?
Sarah Dodson: Our work is made possible by a dedicated and mostly volunteer staff. Our partners also contribute greatly to our programs by bringing their resources—funding, ideas, space, equipment, and, always, time. Most importantly, it’s the writers, artists, and musicians who participate in our programs that make our work possible. Often they are invited to work with circumstances outside of their usual practice, whether that is through a collaborative project, a new medium, or within a different country. The willingness to take on this challenge and share that output with an audience is vital to our work.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Miguel Jiménez: Just that we present rare opportunities for people to meet and hear from exciting artists that are doing really amazing work in their fields. That’s how I got to know MAKE and Lit & Luz myself; I saw that they were putting together a program with a writer I thought I’d never meet, Mario Bellatin. They were part of this program that was able to bring him here. So MAKE creates opportunities for people to meet and work with amazing artists from both Mexico and the U.S.
Sarah Dodson: Also, we’d like to extend an invitation to anyone who sees this to participate in the book clubs, or attend events, or join us for writing workshops. And if they have ideas for ways we can collaborate with other artists or organizations, we’d love to hear it.
About The Illinois Humanities Grantee Partner Spotlight
Illinois Humanities highlights the work of our Community Grants program partners through our “Grantee Spotlight.” It shines the light on our grantee partner’s work, offering details about the organization and the funded project, as well as a Q&A with a team member at the organization. More: ILHumanities.org/Spotlight
About Illinois Humanities
Illinois Humanities, the Illinois affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, is a statewide nonprofit organization that activates the humanities through free public programs, grants, and educational opportunities that foster reflection, spark conversation, build community and strengthen civic engagement. We provide free, high-quality humanities experiences throughout Illinois, particularly for communities of color, individuals living on low incomes, counties and towns in rural areas, small arts and cultural organizations, and communities highly impacted by mass incarceration. Founded in 1974, Illinois Humanities is supported by state, federal, and private funds.