Preserve Reunion: Community Space for LGBTQ+ & POC
WHO WE ARE AND HOW WE GOT HERE
In 2016, we, Elijah McKinnon and Kristen Kaza opened the doors to Reunion, making a home for LGBTQ, people of color and gender minorities to connect & create freely. After trying our best to work at various coworking communities and spaces around the city, we became increasingly disappointed with the lack of diversity and intentions of workspace and hospitality environments and imagined a more intersectional and collaborative space with Reunion. In a landscape where spaces for marginalized communities are relegated mostly to bars and clubs, Reunion became a space for crucial connection outside of nightlife.
This pro bono passion project of our has blossomed into a sustainable possibility model for spaces that represent marginalized identities in creative roles. In addition to Reunion Chicago ’s dedication to resource sharing, leadership development, and intersectional identities, the space has garnered a beloved community of people that have been able to amplify their initiatives and mobilize their audience to build out ecosystems that continue to support LGBTQ+ people, women, femme and non-binary fam and communities of color. The space has served as a home to wellness workshops, markets, fundraisers, retreats, art shows and so much more. Now after three years of public service and community good, we are asking for your support in keeping Reunion Chicago open and thriving.
WHY WE'RE RAISING FUNDS
Named for its intentions of being a welcoming space that engenders feelings of home and belonging, Reunion has become one of the only and most essential spaces in Chicago centering LGBTQ, people of color and gender minorities. Since 2016 Reunion has welcomed over 250 artists, organizations, groups, institutions and brands through its doors, producing over 500 events that would otherwise have trouble finding a space that could meet its budgetary, community and creative needs. In an effort to truly enact its mission of economic accessibility, Reunion operates on a sliding scale pricing model for rentals and residencies. Remarkably, this structure has sustained the overhead for over three years in the black. Reunion has yet to accept any support from public funding or community fundraising initiatives, therefore has successfully kept its doors open self sufficiently. As facilitators of the space, we have donated all of our time as well and invested our own funds into the space.
We have witnessed firsthand the value of providing space to LGBTQ+ folks, communities of color and gender minorities to develop concepts and initiatives that would otherwise not be possible. To this end, we’re committing to Reunion for additional 2 years starting July 2019. This two-year lease, the longest lease we've signed since the opening will allow us to invest deeper in our communities while also creating more innovative ways to incubate projects.
Our goals are to further develop out our residency program, create more opportunities for leadership and career development, while also continuing to seek more public funding resources. In order to achieve this we need your support in helping us raise funds for the following:
YOU'RE IMPACT ON REUNION
Your investment will help us continue to build upon our mission without having to navigate away from our sliding scale rates as well as ensure that we won't have to accrue any debt. Come July 2019, we will be incurring a slight rent increase and at this moment we do not have the funds to tend to the growing needs of the space. Many of the needs we have will also directly benefit residents that have expressed barriers to accessing certain materials and equipment such as basic camera equipment, printers, and projectors.
For the past year, we have been putting off financial decisions including hiring an electrician to repair some of our sockets due to lack of funds and other pressing needs required to keep the space functioning. With thousands of folks passing through Reunion these last three years, our walls, furniture and amenities have taken quite the hit and it's imperative we make updates. Finally, we're aiming to bring on Fall/Winter intern to help our programming and marketing the space. Ideally, we'd like to offer this intern a modern weekly stipend and cover transportation. This would provide us with the opportunity to bring on a grant writing consultant in preparation for the 2020 grant and public funding deadlines and opportunities.
WHAT WE'VE ACCOMPLISHED
- 3+ years of providing project incubation, exhibition space, and event production consultation (est. January 2016)
- 500+ events, workshops, programs hosted at Reunion Chicago
- 250+ organizations, creative laborers and grassroots initiatives served
- 2500K+ hours of pro-bono services donated by Elijah McKinnon & Kristen Kaza (10 hr/week)
- 10K+ visitors (500+/monthly average visitors)
- Developed Strategic Priorities: Leadership Development, Resource-Sharing and Priority Populations
- Develop Priority Program Categories: Art, Performance Art, Film, Health & Wellness, Leadership/Professional Development
- Developed Priority Populations: 18-32 LGBTQ+ identities communities; 22-43 Women/Femme; Non-Binary, Gender-nonconforming identified communities; 18-60 people of color (African-American, Latinx, South East Asian, Indian American, and Asain-American)
THINGS WE IMAGINED
Reunion envisions a space where people on the margins find themselves refreshingly at the center of celebration, priority and investment. We believe in the power of investing in LGBTQ and POC economies and see Reunion as a space that fosters financial, professional and personal growth for the populations we serve. We dream of possibilities activated within our walls inspiring and promoting healing, health and happiness amongst our intersecting communities. We pursue possibility models over inequitable structures that haven't had our communities in mind. We choose to operate from a framework of abundance over scarcity, embodying the sentiment of trailblazer June Jordan: We are the ones we've been waiting for. Let's get together and get to work.
We imagine these ethos materializing in the following ways:
- A continuation and growth of our "Communion" free coworking days that welcome the community to make work without the barriers of cost or status
- An institution of quarterly artistic residencies funded so that the artists can make work freely
- Implementation of programming that specifically focuses on personal and professional growth and skills building
- A more structurally and functionally sound space so that we can better accommodate the needs of our family with varying abilities as well as expand what we can offer in amenities to our community members
- Adding more staff to our space so that we can create stronger communication and support as a resource center
ABOUT REUNION CHICAGO
REUNION is an art gallery, event space and project incubator located in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood. Event/cultural producer Kristen Kaza and brand strategist/ cultural producer Elijah McKinnon assumed management of the space in 2016, with a mission to provide a collaborative and grounding environment for queer, people of color and women & femme folks to create freely.
ABOUT KRISTEN KAZA:
Kristen Kaza is a cultural producer, community enthusiast and "Party Mom" of Chicago. With a 12 year career producing “parties with a purpose” across Chicago, she focuses on building intersectional and intentional programs & audiences that foster community connection and joy. In 2012 she launched her cultural production company No Small Plans Productions, producing events that prioritize Chicago talent & communities with brands & institutions such as the Museum of Contemporary Art, Nike, Navy Pier, Pitchfork, Ace Hotels and featuring artists like Jamila Woods, Noname, Lupe Fiasco, Mick Jenkins and many more.
In nightlife, she is best known for her eight-year running dance party “Slo ‘Mo: Slow Jams for Queer fam,” known for providing welcoming and joy generating spaces that celebrate LGBTQ people. In addition to its monthly residencies provided with free admission, Slo 'Mo hosts workshops, yoga sessions, concerts, comedy nights and more as a way of offering opportunities outside of traditional nightlife environments for the queer community to connect.
Kristen is also the Co-Director of Humboldt Park’s Reunion, a project incubator and event space that centers & celebrates women, LGBTQ & poc creatives & entrepreneurs on a sliding scale. In 2019, Kristen made her “comeback” to media icon the Chicago Reader as Director of Public Engagement & Programs after a seven-year hiatus she took to focus on No Small Plans. Under the Reader’s newly established independence and commitment to community giving as a classified L3C, Kristen is developing a membership community and creating programming that prioritizes underrepresented artists, communities and neighborhoods.
ABOUT ELIJAH MCKINNON
Elijah is an award-winning strategist, creative director, entrepreneur, artist and advocate from the future currently residing on planet earth. They received a Bachelors of Science from the Art Institute of San Francisco in Marketing and Management with a focus in Campaign Development and New Media studies. In addition to serving as the Founder and Director of People Who Care, Inc. --- an independent consultancy that works exclusively with nonprofits and grassroots initiatives such as AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Northwestern University, The Andy Warhol Foundation, Grindr for Equality, Raúl Anguiano Art Museum, Center for Disease Control and many more -- they are also deeply involved in queer, creative and philanthropic communities around the globe.
They are constantly moving and shaking in an attempt to build meaningful relationships and encourage resource sharing. Elijah co-produced and starred in Chicago's #PrEP4Love campaign; is the Co-Director/Founder of Reunion Chicago, a exhibition space and project incubator prioritized for queer, women-identified and people of color in creative roles; is the Co-Founder and Head of Marketing for OTV - Open Television, a web TV platform for queer, trans and artists of color; and is the current curator in residence at Estudio Teorema, a culturally-charged activist gallery and production studio located in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Elijah’s artistic practice and advocacy work currently centers around the intersection between trauma, wellness, race, sexuality and gender. They’re work explores themes of space-making, liberation, and resilience as seen in their highly acclaimed web series, Two Queens in a Kitchen, a turn-to-relevance cooking show now in its third season exploring art, culture and politics; their work-in-progress performance piece, Today I Learned, a durational experiment exploring their personal relationship to abuse, death, depression and identity; their forthcoming series developed in partnership with University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill and Duke University, Good Enough, a limited digital series exploring coming out, chosen family, depression, HIV-prevention and sexual health; and their soon-to-be released public service announcement developed in collaboration with Chicago Department of Public Health, AIDS Foundation of Chicago and PrEP4Love, a 3 song visual album exploring sexual liberation, intimacy, pleasure and PrEP.
Elijah’s professional, artistic, and advocacy work has been covered by the Chicago Tribune, Out Magazine, CBS, VICE, Pride, Chill, Red Eye, Into and many more publications. They have performed in spaces such the Museum for Contemporary Art, Salonathon, Soho House and more. In 2016 Elijah was named “Top 30 Under 30 LGBT People" in Chicago, Illinois by the Windy City Times and was invited to the first annual African-American LGBTQ Education Summit at The White House.
Thank you for your continued support. You are an integral part of our foundation. Investing in alternative ecosystems powered by LGBTQ+ & communities of color is a radical act.
Together we can liberate ourselves from oppressive systems that contribute to the erasure of our joy and expression. Please continue to spread the word about our fundraiser at gofundme.com/reunionchi
Also, here’s a cute video series of us kickin’ it. We’ll be spilling more Tea about Reunion Chicago once we break $6500!!
kk + eli