Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-02-22



Jane Saks expands social-justice brand with Project&
by Melissa Wasserman

This article shared 12058 times since Wed Oct 1, 2014
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

The word "and" comes after everything Jane M. Saks does. A cultural alchemist, arts advocate, creative collaborator and producer, educator, published writer and poet, Saks has now introduced her newest work, Project&.

"Social justice is the rent you pay for the space you take up on earth," Saks said in quoting her great grandmother, who instilled that strong belief through the family tree. "You are given responsibility for just being here on this earth. You decide what kind of participant you are going to be, how you are going to change things for the better. But you have to be part of it. You must participate. My parents reinforced that throughout my life as well."

Saks grew up in Chicago's various neighborhoods and Evanston in a politically active, socially engaged and civically committed family. Her mother owned the Esther Saks Gallery and her father ran the neighborhood, family-owned chain Saxxon Paint and Hardware. Both her parents used their businesses to support social issues and community challenges. Their involvement in the arts, politics and social-justice issues, Saks said, set the tone for her and her three sisters.

Saks fondly remembered her family gathering around the TV to watch the Watergate hearings. It was unusual to have TV time in their home during the summer and 10-year-old Saks was intrigued by the events. As a result, she wrote a carefully crafted letter to then-U.S. Rep. Barbara Jordan in D.C. asking to shadow her for a few days.

"I just wanted to come down and learn from her about social justice in this broad sense," said Saks. She received what she described as a fabulous letter back. The letter was about commitment to the here and now and how Jordan wanted to give to the present and the future as opposed to giving back like others talked about. It was an invitation for Saks to walk alongside her and to commit to social change. "Just that idea that I was being asked to walk with her, that there wasn't anyone walking ahead of or behind anyone else, it stuck with me. It was so powerful."

A self-described insomniac with a serious case of curiosity, Saks has challenged issues of gender, sexuality, human rights, race and power within the arts and culture, politics and civil rights, academia and philanthropy worlds.

"I came out at a time when people were fighting to survive with no assistance from the larger society," said Saks, who identifies as a queer woman. "Yes, we've come a long way in many regards, undoubtedly, and in significant ways and for many people in the LGBT communities, but not for everyone and not equally. The LGBT community is unique in so many regards. It's off the chain—and that's what I love—and it's unique because every population is represented. We are the most diverse community. Therefore, we also embody and have to address all the challenges the entire society has to face."

Among the number of boards she serves on, awards she has earned and collaborators she has worked with, Saks is a Chicago LGBT Hall of Famer, a member of the Mayor's Cultural Advisory Council for the City of Chicago and the producer, co-producer, creative advisor and series producer on many original creative works in various media and art forms.

In 2005, Saks was appointed the founding executive director of the Ellen Stone Belic Institute for the Study of Women and Gender in the Arts and Media at Columbia College, where she served as executive director until January 2014. The program, the first of its kind, offered an innovative approach to merging arts and cultural production with critical theory, research and education. At the core, the fellowship intersected gender, creativity and community.

Now the decades of Saks' work has built up to become Project&. The project went public in January and went live online this month. Excited about the work and recent launch, Saks said it is incredible to be at this dynamic moment of the work, adding the idea's time has come and it is a necessary mission.

"Project&'s mission is focused on cultural production with social impact," said Saks, Project&'s founding president and artistic director. "I believe the impact begins at the very start—at the first points of creation, collaboration. How we do our work, who we do it with, how we learn and challenge and grow through the creative process has social impact—as well as the resulting cultural production. It's about the true value of diversity in every regard, in every direction, level and deeply at every point."

Project& focuses its work in three program areas: fellowships, global dialogues and innovative studios. The experimental and entrepreneurial are embraced and address topics and issues related to LGBT equality, human rights, race/gender, economics and social equity, participation, immigration and response to violence. Saks explained the topics often overlap and influence each other.

"We feel that our mission and vision are vital," said Saks about launching Project&. "This is a decisive moment in our country and globally. I believe that new deeply engaged models of participation are needed now more than ever. Art has the ability to create those opportunities and challenge us to move further and risk more and see differently. Art and culture have the unique ability to make good on the democratic promise. The democratic process promises one thing and one thing only: equitable participation. It can be one of the most radical ways to engage in democracy. If you ask me, we need that kind of participation more than ever."

Thus far, the Project& team has brought Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Lynsey Addario to Chicago for a public program with the Council on Global Affairs in February and in April hosted former South African Justice Albie Sachs who wrote the marriage equality constitutional decision for the South Africa. Project& showed the first screening outside South Africa of the film about his life. Coming up, the team has a commissioned premiere in October in New York City with MacArthur Fellow and musician Claire Chase.

"I've been incubating this model of cultural production with social impact for some years and seen success," said Saks. "We need this kind of risk-taking and brave collaboration to deal with the challenges the world faces and to address the deeply human questions we all ask ourselves personally and publicly.

"Art can encourage our greatest human capacity. It's a strong tool for lasting social change. That's why I believe creating art is a social political act in and of itself, because it can create necessary dialogues and probes for deep human response and engagement. Historically, it's been at the center of all social and human struggles. Art is often most dangerous and risky because it does not imitate, simulate or recreate experiences, but is the actual experience. It is dangerous, in the best ways."

For more information on Saks and Project&, visit .

This article shared 12058 times since Wed Oct 1, 2014
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Gay News

Affinity renews Burning Bowl tradition
On the afternoon of March 19, Affinity Community Services held Burning Bowl 2023 Renewal: And Still We Rise at the Pavilion at the Dan Ryan Woods. ...

Gay News

Center on Halsted to Honor Sen. Tammy Baldwin April 15, Human First Gala at The Geraghty
--From a press release - CHICAGO — Center on Halsted is pleased to announce that its inaugural Trailblazer Award will be presented to Senator Tammy Baldwin at its annual Human First Gala being held the evening of Saturday, April 15, in ...

Gay News

Navratilova says she is cancer-free
Legendary tennis figure Martina Navratilova said she is now cancer-free—four months after announcing she had been diagnosed with throat and breast cancer, ESPN reported. "As far as they know I'm cancer-free," Navratilova told Piers Morgan for ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ 'Black Adam,' Cyndi Lauper, Sondheim, Oscars, OutFest
Cultured Magazine recently profiled Quintessa Swindell—who became the first out, non-binary actor to play a lead superhero in the DC universe when they portrayed Cyclone in the 2022 movie Black Adam. Swindell grew up in Virginia ...

Gay News

Protest held outside New Life Covenant Church over alleged anti-LGBTQ practices
Now-former New Life Covenant Church parishioner Rosaly Andino, who is a lesbian, and her allies gathered across the street from the church in the Humboldt Park neighborhood March 12 to protest alleged anti-LGBTQ practices by Pastor David Marrero. ...

Gay News

LPAC expands board of directors, building on successful 2023 midterms
--From a press release - Washington, DC — LPAC, the national political organization dedicated to electing LGBTQ women and nonbinary people to public office, announced today that Liz Culley and Janelle Perez have joined its Board of Directors. LPAC is the ...

Gay News

WORLD Kenyan group, Alan Emtage, trans anchor, Hershey campaign
The Kenyan Supreme Court allowed an LGBTQI+-rights group to register as a non-governmental organization, The Washington Blade reported. Ten years ago, Eric Gitari, the former executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission ...

Gay News

Lightfoot concedes but other LGBTQ+ candidates make inroads
Incumbent Lori Lightfoot, the city's first Black lesbian mayor, conceded defeat the evening of Feb. 28, after a tumultuous term and a difficult election season, where she competed against eight challengers for her post. "I stand ...

Gay News

Singer Zolita zips through Chicago on a whirlwind tour
Zoe Montana Hoetzel has evolved into the multidimensional artist known as Zolita while cultivating a massive following. Her personality is multifaceted as well. She identifies as a lesbian, an activist and a witch, but she's also ...

Gay News

Passages: Longtime activist Achebe (Betty) Powell passes away
Veteran social justice organizer and educator Achebe (Betty) Powell passed away Feb. 21, according to multiple reports. Powell died of COVID-19 related complications at New York Presbyterian Hospital in Brooklyn, according to a Feb. 22 statement ...

Gay News

HRC condemns North Dakota House for latest "Slate of Hate" targeting trans, non-binary people
--From a press release - Bismarck, ND - Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization, denounced members of the North Dakota House for ...

Gay News

Hidden History: Pamela Bannos brings the life of 19th-century lesbian photographer to new audiences
Few people outside of New York may know about 19th-century photographer Alice Austen (1866-1952)—but author/historian/Northwestern University professor Pamela Bannos wants to change that. Bannos recently completed a podcast series about ...

Gay News

At 'FIRST(ISH)' Sight: Producer Ashley Flowers speaks on 'honest' representation
Ashley Flowers—a producer, co-creator and actor in the short film First(ish) Date, now in pre-production—wears many creative hats. She also has an extensive resume working with stage and film props as well; Flowers has been working ...

Gay News

ILGA-Europe report: 2022 was the deadliest year for anti-LGBTI violence
ILGA (International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association)-Europe's "Annual Review of the Human Rights Situation of LGBTI People in Europe and Central Asia"— announced Feb. 20 in Brussels, Belgium—reveals ...

Gay News

NATIONAL Under secretary leaving, gay man killed, anti-trans moves, SF gay bar
Under Secretary Gina Ortiz Jones—the Air Force's second-highest ranking civilian—is stepping down on March 6, after a year and a half in the position, according to Jones was appointed by President Joe Biden as the ...


Copyright © 2023 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.






About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam     
Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.