Pop-up alley parties to return to Loop in May

Photos Courtesy Elizabeth Neukirch
Members of the art community will be able to engage in art related to this year's ACTIVATE shows theme: the five senses.

By Arts & Culture Reporter

Interactive art and music that appeal to all five senses will soon come to uncommon Chicago gathering places—alleys.

ACTIVATE, the popular Chicago Loop Alliance’s arts series, is returning for a third year May 13 through October 31 to host pop-up alley experiences in the Loop.

Last summer, more than 30,000 people attended the ACTIVATE events, which transformed alleys into urban art and social events that filled the typically underutilized spaces in the city.

For this season, the theme is “art and music of the five senses,” according to Marla Gamze, marketing director for the Chicago Loop Alliance.

“We all know what it’s like when you’re on the street and you are not interacting with others, but when you are in this space where you have got art and music and you are dancing, it all turns into a really [immersive] experience,” Gamze added.

Alleyway visitors will be able to take part in the art, said Michael Edwards, president and CEO of the Chicago Loop Alliance, in a March 29 press release. He also said ACTIVATE is stepping up its game like never before.

“This year, we are taking audience participation to the next level,” Edwards said. “Each year, ACTIVATE continues to grow and evolve. We are thrilled to present a new series of events to residents and visitors who have attended in past years and to those who will be experiencing it for the first time.”

Gamze said the demographics of participants vary. 

“Some people bring their families and dogs, and some are urban explorers. Other people are students and residents who live nearby and others come from outlying neighborhoods,” Gamze said. “We do surveys at the end of each event, and it’s astounding because the demographics are quite varied.”

Gamze said ACTIVATE recently began a charity partnership, something the organization has never done before. Some of the proceeds from the events will be donated to Snow 

City Arts, a children’s charity   that brings innovative art and education to long-term patients in children’s hospitals.

Jonathan Heuring, development and communications director at Snow City Arts, said the organization found these series of events fit its mission of bringing the arts to people all over the community. He also said he appreciates the alley events being both unpredictable and inventive.

“Some [shows] you can only see once,” Heuring said. “It oddly pairs with what we do. We tailor our work to what the situation is. Every day we work is a different and unique experience, and that’s exactly what ACTIVATE is as well.”

Admission to events is free. Specific details of the May–October ACTIVATE events will be announced two weeks prior to each event. To register, go to LoopChicago.com/Activate.