• Zachary Blair

East Lakeview Arts Festival


For the next few months, I will be writing short pieces here about key moments documented through my fieldwork in Chicago's Boystown that will not be making it to the final manuscript of my dissertation. This moment was one of my favorites. I've also included some amazing (shaky) camera-work from the field.

Walking down Broadway through the East Lakeview Arts Festival in the Fall of 2009, Dev turned to me and said, “This is so much different than Gay Pride or Market Days. Everyone here is drinking La Croix sparkling waters. And it's all couples and straight families. Do they even serve alcohol here?"

We walked a few steps in silence. Looking at our surroundings.

"Oh look, there’s one wine stand.”

A wine booth stood next to a tent for RCN cable, which had televisions set up playing the Sunday football game. Lined up in front of the televisions were recliners full of men. Not one chair was empty. "Oh look, you can watch the game while I shop," a woman said to her husband as she walked past us. The RCN tent was set up just for that. To keep husbands busy with sports while their wives went shopping.

“I think I know what’s different now,” Dev said.

“What is that?” I asked.

“There’s less skin showing!” Dev laughed.

We walked into the Caribou Coffee shop on Broadway and , across the street from Nettlehorst Elementary School. It was packed with gay men.

“Oh so this is where they all are!” We sat down and listened as a table of gay men next to us discussed how different the the art festival was from other neighborhood events, like Market Days and Gay Pride.


The East Lakeview Arts Festival, especially when compared to other neighborhood festivals, is demonstrative of one of the many ways urban space structures subjectivities. Stereotypes, normativities, and cultural tropes are constructed by the neighborhood through its spaces of sociality and consumption. Marketed as celebration, these festivals reproduce identities, cultural understandings, and social interactions. It is through these capitalist neighborhood formations that race, gender, class, and sexuality are (re)configured and/or (re)produced.

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© 2016 by Dr. Zachary Blair