The Pilsen Artist and Artesian Cooperative (PAAC) becomes a reality by, with, and for those individuals who seek to form a community in which to express their passion for creativity in traditional and non-traditional design and manufacturing while sharing space with tenants of a five-flat near Damen and Cermak Avenues.
The rental units are basic, functional, and still hold the memories of days gone by during the 1800s when tenants shared common areas to meet and greet in mutual support. It was then that the Pilsen neighborhood was established by Bohemian immigrants; during the following century, Mexican migrants and immigrants gave the community its personality; and in the 21st Century we have arrived at a mix of many cultures and traditions sharing the community’s spaces. PAAC seeks to support and maintain the blending of cultures as much as maintaining the character of Pilsen by creating space for individual traditions and values that define each culture.
As the economic base shifted, the traditions and values of blue-collar workers, in their essence, have been maintained in Pilsen. In spite of struggles with violence brought on by poverty, discrimination, and lack of access to adequate schooling, sustainable jobs, and proper housing, Mexican-led organizations and churches strove for decades to preserve their community and make it the place to achieve that “American Dream.”
The structures and outlets initiated and organized by the community are visible in the commerce, events, and daily life on the streets among neighbors. This essence of mutual support ought to be supported, not supplanted, by newcomers with different values and tradition. These newcomers now include developers, popular artists, hipsters, a new wave of Latin-American immigrants and first generation families, and residents moving in from other neighborhoods. It is at the intersection of cultural exchanges and meeting one another to learn about one another’s perspectives and values that a community can continue on a path of peaceful co-existence. The sharing of traditions and cultural events happens at this intersection. This vision of the PAAC guides the development of a commons with residents at the building and of the community.
PAAC offers a store front for use of displays, vernissages, exhibitions, sales of art items of many media, and crafts from local artisans, author receptions, readings, workshops, fireside chats, educational events, and so forth. The building’s spacious hallways, basement, yard, and attic add space for creating, crafting, and displaying the works of its community members.