EveryPeople Workshop Is a Great DIY Arts Incubator

The five-year-old Chicago collective filled a huge vacuum for the city’s young talent.

Photograph: courtesy of Everypeople’s Flickr stream.

Everypeople Jazz performs with Nicholas Gajewski’s STRINGS.

The announcement this month of Constellation, Mike Reed’s performance space in the old Viaduct Theater space, was a welcome bit of good news for Chicago jazz artists who have seen the city’s once-vibrant club scene dwindle precipitously over the past decade. For every stalwart like the Green Mill and the Jazz Showcase, there’s a fallen giant whose particular absence hasn’t been filled, like the Velvet Lounge or the HotHouse. Those were places where experimentation was encouraged—that’s especially important for young groups still in the development stages.

Enter the EveryPeople Workshop, an artistic co-op of sorts developed in 2008 by musicians/composers Nick Mazzarella, Mikel Avery, and Nicholas Gajewski. The three guys wanted to created a collective that bridged the gap between different artistic disciplines, scenes, and neighborhoods. In a sense, EPW acts as a DIY arts incubator, encouraging the kind of risk-taking that allows playwrights, actors, dancers, and musicians to hone their practice.

“We noticed a segregation between musicians and artists of different disciplines throughout the city,” says EPW co-founder and chief operations officer Gajewski. “We were interested in trying a different approach that might bring people together in interesting and, hopefully, worthwhile ways.” 

To that end, EPW projects tend to encompass not only jazz, but any number of other styles and ambitions as well. Over its brief five-year history, the collective has:

  • Accumulated close to 200 original musical compositions
  • Self-produced more than 100 live performances and presentations
  • Self-released four records with contributions from the likes of Jeff Parker, Maggie Brown and Marquis Hill

EPW currently has eight ongoing projects including dance works, a big band, and a string ensemble. The group also presents two ongoing live performance series: 2nd Wednesdays at Village Records (2010 W. Roscoe), featuring a number of groups and projects and the EPW Big Band Series with core EPW member Aaron Shapiro’s at the helm.

EPW may represent just a small piece of the overall artistic scene today, but Gajewski hopes it will grow into a unique player among major arts organizations in the city. “As artists, I think we will still be working to fulfill our fundamental goals of performing and presenting original works,” he says, contemplating EPW’s next five years. “As a company, we hope to be located in our own commercial space right here in Chicago.”

The next scheduled EPW performance features New York trumpeter and composer Douglas Detrick’s AnyWhen Ensemble on Saturday, March 23 at 8 p.m. at Surplus of Options, 3664 N. Lincoln. $10. everypeopleworkshop.org

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