The Hairpin Arts Center (2810 N. Milwaukee Ave.) is officially reopening, at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 24. The center will be hosting a special fundraiser prerelease screening of the documentary “Haymarket: the Bomb, the Anarchists, the Labor Struggle.” The Northwest Chicago Historical Society is co-sponsoring the event. Tickets are $15 per person.
Haymarket: The Film
“Haymarket” was directed by Adrian Prawica, a Chicago-based filmmaker known for his documentaries “A Night on Milwaukee Ave.” and “Fourth Partition.” His new film chronicles the events of the May 4, 1886, Haymarket Affair. That day, as anarchists and socialist labor leaders wrapped up a meeting in Haymarket Square (175 N. Desplaines St.), someone threw a bomb into a group of police officers. The Chicago History Museum‘s site explains that the explosion led to a violent clash. Police fired guns at workers. Others may have fired as well. Officers and workers alike sustained wounds. Some died. The bombing drew condemnation from around the U.S, leading to resounding public opinion against the radical left.
In Prawica’s “Haymarket” documentary, professors and historians present the history of the bomb, as well as the history of 19th century anarchist, socialist and labor movements.
Hairpin: The Event
The Hairpin Arts Center got access to this film through Dan Pogorzelski, who runs community outreach and events at Hairpin. Pogorzelski is a writer and editor at Forgotten Chicago, as well as the co-author of four “Images of America” books on Chicago neighborhoods (“Avondale and Chicago’s Polish Village,” “Logan Square,” “Bridgeport,” and “Portage Park“). He contributed his historical knowledge to Prawica’s last two documentaries, and as Pogorzelski is a former union leader, it was natural for him to lend his insight to Prawica’s newest film. This relationship led to Hairpin securing a special fundraiser prerelease screening of the documentary.
The film fits Hairpin’s dedication to creating change and opening dialogue through art. The center’s site explains that it “provide[s] a safe and welcoming platform for art to address the ever-changing issues of humanity.”
Chicago’s Revolutionary Spirit
“It’s my belief that you’ve had a bit of a revolutionary spirit in Logan Square for a long time,” Pogorzelski said. “It’s my hope that we can not only help publicize this film, but help uncover some history that not everybody might be aware of.”
Pogorzelski mentioned the idea that we currently live in a new Gilded Age. The original Gilded Age occurred in the 19th century, when the wealth gap was wide, leading laborers to strike and riot. Pogorzelski said he sees parallels with that period today. He also sees that Chicagoans are still organizing, much like their historical counterparts.
“Chicago, we are this city where people take their issues, I would say, and run with it in a way that is not in the culture of every other American town,” he said. “We don’t hesitate to pick up a clipboard and get involved and rally our neighbors if we think that something is not right or if we think that things should be different. That’s part of Chicago’s legacy. Haymarket is part of that legacy, I would argue.”
Prawica’s documentary is an official selection of the Global Labor, Workers Unite, and Reel Work May Day Labor 2021 film festivals. Image: Adrian Prawica.
Discussing The Doc
Following the documentary, Hairpin will host a half-hour panel moderated by Pogorzelski. This presentation will include Columbia College professor emeritus Dominic Pacyga, a renowned Chicago historian, and 35th ward alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa.
Ramirez-Rosa assumed the role of 35th ward alderman in May 2015. During his time in office, he has notably fought to protect immigrant Chicagoans and create policies to generate affordable housing. He is dean of the city council’s Democratic Socialist Caucus.
Historian Pacyga is known for his books “Polish Immigrants and Industrial Chicago Workers on the South Side, 1880-1922” and “Chicago: A Biography.” In 2013, he earned the Mieczyslaw Haiman Award for his academic contributions to the Polish American community.
“We’re trying to … have art as a reason for dialogue for social justice but also for social change. And this is part of that mission,” Pogorzelski said.
Looking Back, Moving Forward
Hairpin’s mission was hard to carry out during the past year and a half. COVID-19 hit arts organizations hard. Hairpin was no exception. In March of 2020, the center made the decision to close and remained that way until recently, hosting only a few virtual events with organizations like AnySquared and Asian Improv Arts Midwest (AIRMW).
Last week, Hairpin had a soft reopen to kick off “First Fridays,” an event featuring local artists. Pogorzelski explained that Hairpin wants to continue supporting more artists. However, he said, “we can’t do that if we cannot pay the rent.”
Pogorzelski is looking at this special prerelease screening as an opportunity to raise funds so the center can continue supporting artists from its historic perch.
If you can’t make it to see “Haymarket” but still love what Hairpin is doing, check out the center’s support page.
Featured image: Hairpin Arts Center.