The Pivot Arts Festival is an annual celebration of contemporary and multi-genre performance taking place in Chicago’s Uptown, Edgewater and Rogers Park neighborhoods. Over ten days, audiences have the opportunity to experience unique works that are often site-specific and/or blur the lines between music, theater and dance. The purpose of the festival is to create a culture of innovative performance works in Chicago, to bring diverse people together through the arts, and to contribute to the vitality of residential communities on the far north side of Chicago that are economically, culturally and racially diverse.

In 2013 we produced our first festival whose theme was “Reigniting the Vaudeville Era in Uptown and Edgewater.” Notable Chicago groups like Mucca Pazza, a twenty-eight piece punk marching band; Manual Cinema; Theater Oobleck; Mad Shak Dance; RE Dance and many others performed including an entire weekend of “Art in the Parking Lot” — free performances in an empty parking lot in Uptown. We converted an empty bank building that had been originally built as a vaudeville theater into a performance space and used multiple historic buildings.

In 2014 the festival theme was “Art Meets Science” and we curated multiple shows around science themes from the Acoustics of House (a house music dance party) to the Seldoms’ Exit Disclaimer: Science and Fiction Ahead (a dance piece about climate change) the festival showcased multiple performances including Ayako Kato’s The Incidents which was listed as one of the Top Ten Dance Performances by the Chicago Tribune.

The festival’s partnership with Loyola University has broadened the type of work we are able to program thanks to the use of their beautiful Mundelein Center for the Arts. In 2015 the Pivot Arts Festival included our first-ever “Celebrate Community!” Parade along with multiple dance and theater performances from Lucky Plush Productions to Dean Evans’ Honeybuns.

In 2016 we moved away from an annual theme and instead focused solely on the “Pivot Arts Festival” as a celebration of unique and innovative works. The festival continued to promote local businesses with performances occurring inside businesses and unusual spaces as well as at more traditional performance venues.

The Festival took a leap forward in 2018 with the Chicago premiere of the Rude Mechs, a nationally celebrated theater company from Austin, Texas. This was the first time Pivot Arts had presented artists from outside of Chicago. In addition, our incubator program moved from the winter to the late spring with artists having more time to develop works and also the opportunity to show works-in-progress as part of the festival.

In 2019 the festival included all world premiere productions and works by international artists including Erin Kilmurray’s Search Party; Gilgamesh and Enkidu by Seth Bockley and Canadian artists Jesse LaVercombe and Ahmed Monika as well as the premiere of The Rosina Project, a hip h’opera developed in our incubator program by Chicago Fringe Opera and BraveSoul Movement and produced by Pivot Arts. Artistic Associates, Isaac Gomez and Nancy Garcia Loza, curated an evening of Latinx Performances.

The 2020 Festival quickly “pivoted” to an on-line festival presented in June of 2020 due to the pandemic. We were proud to be one of the only local festivals to immediately adapt once the pandemic hit (Pivot Arts Festival Switches it Up Online). Individual artists were commissioned to create short videos of their experience in quarantine including New York artists Sister Sylvester and Obie award-winning, solo artist, David Cale. Local groups commissioned to create new works included Red Clay Dance Company and we also presented Los Angeles artist, Alex Alpharaoh and works by Chicago’s internationally acclaimed, The Era Footwork Crew.