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Alleys behind Loop theaters will host pop-up, interactive art shows

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The four events celebrate drag, stage design, circus arts, and comedy

A video projection on an alley wall.
Vincent Naples

Not so fast! There’s no need to vacate the Loop straight after work. For a sixth year, the Chicago Loop Alliance and curators will organize interactive, pop-up art exhibitions in downtown alleys.

ACTIVATE transforms urban spaces with art and this season’s “Backstage” theme will celebrate the city’s performing arts culture. The season aligns with the citywide initiative Year of Chicago Theatre. The free events will take place on June 6, July 18, August 22 and September 26. The exact locations are kept a secret until the dates arrive, but at least this time there’s a clue.

The four alley transformations will be designed by art curator Missy Perkins, artist Roe Melloe, musician Miss Alex White, creative agency SONIDOS, and theatre group Hot Kitchen. The teams will showcase different aspects of Chicago theater including drag, lighting and stage design, circus arts, and comedy. Those attending the popular events can expect DJs, video art projects, backdrops for photos, performers, and entertainment.

Dull alleys are reimagined into lively spaces with impressive set designs and gives residents a chance to interact with local art and music. ACTIVATE’s success has prompted faculty at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago to offer a class this summer that will teach students creative place-making and culminate in the class’s own event with the Chicago Loop Alliance which has yet to be announced.

An artist paints a live mural.
Photo by Stephanie Jensen