Connecting with Quennect 4

By HermineBloom

Tapestries hung on brick walls with high ceilings, original artwork, live music and an undeniable spirit of charity work in the kind of underground space that most young people who don’t live in the city fantasize about when they picture an urban art scene.

Despite the romance, however, many underground art spaces in the city cease to exist due to city regulations. Quennect 4, 2716 W. North Ave., was an apartment-turned-cultural-haven dedicated to raising money for charities and organizations throughout the city. Now John Ibarra, who founded the organization in 2007, no long has a home to host events.

On Jan. 5, the city delivered a notice from the alderman, Ibarra explained, which notified the organizers of Quennect 4 that their space and six other addresses were given citations for loud music and illegal promotion, and have subsequently been shut down.

The independently run, multi-use art space, which is where Ibarra and his roommates are currently living, originated from a desire to expose people in the city to art, fashion, primarily world music and provide people with an opportunity to recite their work at an open mic or a story slam.

A global rhythm project called “Café Vida,” art showcases of all mediums and regularly scheduled story slams took place every week at Quennect 4 before they shut down. Café Vida now takes place at Wicker Well Lounge, 1637 W. North Ave.

In order to organize these types of events, Ibarra, who previously worked at independent bookstore the New World Resource Center, 1300 N. Western Ave., recruited the artistic people in the community to help.

Ibarra refuted that Quennect 4, or Q4 for short, was ever deemed a hipster hangout.

“The way that I look at it now was that it was always a community cultural center no matter who it was geared toward,” Ibarra said. “People tend to want to keep things apart. The hipsters, the hip-hop cats, the activists. One thing that we did do was bring people together. Even now, things are segregated in Chicago and without places like ours, there’s really no place for everybody to come together as a whole again.”

Q4 continues to be committed to providing a safe environment for city dwellers interested in underground art.

“We’ve had a lot of age restrictions so that the young crowd wouldn’t be a problem,” said Phillip Morris, who helped organize events and participated regularly in Q4’s open mics. “Developing artists come out of their shell just by coming to Quennect 4 every week. People get exposed to a wide array of music that they may have never heard before. Really interesting, original and authentic people would come here.”

Perhaps most importantly, those behind the organization were constantly fundraising for charities such as Latino Union, Women’s Health Care Center, U.S. Social Forum and the Leftist Lounge, to name a few.

Morris, 30, who is an emcee, performed at Q4 and “walked into a world of wonder,” he said.

West Side native and full-time vocalist, Morris said whenever anyone from Q4 asked him to help out he was on board.

“The city is quick to crack down on anything they can’t control, regulate or tax,” he said.

Louis Tubens, not unlike Morris, was asked to help organize and emcee events at Quennect 4 after being involved in a party his group, the Leftist Lounge, threw at

the space.

Tubens, 28, said the majority of people who attended the events were in their early 20s to mid-30s and were willing to dig for an art outlet such as this one.

“By being underground and people really having to search for it, we really did get an audience of people who come for the art and the music,” Tubens said. “Not because it’s something cool or hip to do, but more because they sought it out. It’s something that they’re seeking.”

Tubens currently works for After School Matters, teaches video production at an inner-city high school, performance installation at a youth center and gives tour guides at a museum in Pilsen.

He said the members of Q4 wanted to cater to the people who already live on the West Side, as well as bring people from different neighborhoods to the events to expose them to cultural events they might enjoy.

As far as Tubens is concerned, Q4 will continue to act as event planners or as a go-between for artists and potential spaces for gigs until they re-establish their space.

“We’ll do everything from sound to putting up the artwork, to taking it down when it’s all over,” Tubens said. “There will be security, [and] drinks if drinks are provided. We’ve definitely continued; we just don’t have a home.”

Ibarra, who has worked odd jobs since Q4 shut down, encourages everyone to donate money to their organization by visiting their Web site.

“Q4 will never stop,” he said. “It’s only going to be a matter of time. It’s kind of like that saying, ‘Life finds a way.’ There will always be a way for us to continue what we’ve been doing.”

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