Terra Firma transforms a vacant mid-south-side lot
Bull Horn is a way to give wings to the stories that matter most. This series, from Red Bull in partnership with the Chicago Reader, invites invited writers, artists, activists and community members to share their ideas and develop topical and crucial topics that they deem important now.
Hello, I am Brandon Breaux, an artist and designer based in Chicago. My art practice is currently focused on fine art – digital commissions and a solo exhibition that opens next year. I’m also one of the founders of a local online Japanese language school called Chiba Center, which teaches Japanese language and culture to black creatives around the world.
I am dedicated to community and the arts, which is reflected in the work I create. To this end, I have collaborated with Emerald South Economic Development Collaborative, a nonprofit organization whose goal is to generate community wealth and amplify local culture through pride, power and shared investment for south-central Chicago.
I’m the artistic director of Emerald South’s Terra Firma initiative. Launched this year, Terra Firma is a five-year, $ 25 million land maintenance initiative to beautify, maintain and activate more than 205 acres of vacant land in the southern part of Chicago. Through vocational training and entrepreneurship programs, Terra Firma directly increases employment and business opportunities for local residents and produces measurable community outcomes related to physical, social and environmental well-being. Terra Firma helps our communities reclaim the value of their land for themselves. Through targeted investments, we can protect the neighborhood from the negative consequences of vacant land while turning current neighborhood vulnerabilities into opportunities for local residents and businesses.
I’m planning two upcoming wellness-focused vacant land activations for Emerald South and Terra Firma in a series called On Firm Ground. On October 16 and 17, we are contributing to a Connect South Shore event organized by the Silver Room and sponsored by the South Shore Chamber of Commerce. This is an outdoor activation at 7045 S. Jeffery with over 20 vendors, DJs, makeup, food trucks, skating rink and a set of steppers on Sundays. Emerald South and I will be hosting fresh produce vendors and morning meditation and yoga sessions on both days.
The following weekend, October 23, we’ll be at the 53rd and Prairie to activate the Chicago Architecture Biennale’s exhibit, New Witness Trees, created by Hood Design Studio. The day’s events are scheduled to include a meditation session, rhythm-making workshops, a bike ride in partnership with Black JoyRide and a food vendor. We will also write witness messages on foil labels and hang them on witness trees.
Community is at the heart of my work. Chicago is my base. It is my heart and has been my window to the world, informing my perspective on life. He’s honest, hardworking, and made some of the most amazing humans I’ve had the pleasure of knowing in this life.
Brandon Breaux is a Chicago-based artist and designer. He can be found on Instagram @bbreaux.