For Here Magazine issue 09, we interviewed Chicago-based artist Jamila Woods about her new album LEGACY! LEGACY!, establishing her roots in a misunderstood city, and how she channels creativity in her ultra-hectic lifestyle. Below, you’ll find six essential things we gleaned from our cover star about how she gets it done—be sure to read the full interview here.
1. Chicago is a city for artists.
Though Chicago has plenty of tourist draws—from world-class food to Lake Michigan and Navy Pier—the city’s struggles with violence continue to dominate headlines, often marking Chicago as the “tale of two cities.”
In spite of it all, Woods sees beauty in Chicago’s diversity, even if she needed to seek out unconventional means to discover it. It’s where she found her voice and her community.
2. Community matters.
Woods credits the community and culture of Wicker Park’s Young Chicago Authors, where she’s worked since 2014, for revealing the freer, more outspoken artist that she has grown into.
Now, as Associate Artistic Director, Woods works with a new generation of young creators learning to embrace themselves as she once did.
“Through the process of the program I fell in love with the whole idea of poetry,” she explains. “I hadn’t seen poetry from people who looked like me unless they were, like, really old and not writing about Chicago or not writing about things that I knew. The teaching artists were so young and I could see myself in them.”
3. Seek diverse experiences.
“If you’re visiting Chicago, release what you’ve heard about Chicago and allow yourself to experience it for yourself,” says Woods. “The South Side Community Arts Center was named a national treasure [in 2017 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation].”
4. Understand history.
“Really investigate what are places in the South Side or the West Side where history has happened,” says Woods. “And go experience that because it’s special to see and not always protected.”
5. Stay grounded.
Woods takes cues from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. “I’m always journaling, or at least I try to be. I’ve been better at it these past few weeks. It’s low-stakes writing that isn’t supposed to be a poem or anything; literally whatever’s in your head,” she explains. She also meditates.
But most importantly, Woods goes on what Cameron calls “artist dates.” “I try to do something that’s like [I’m] not just a machine putting out a product, whether that’s going to a museum or watching a documentary,” she explains. “You also need to be nurtured as an artist.”
6. Stick together.
Tour can be “lonely as fuck,” according to Woods, so this go-round her team is traveling on a tour bus for the first time. “You’re doing this really adrenaline-filled thing—this sometimes vulnerable thing—of performing, and then you go to your hotel room by yourself,” she says. “Even though tour buses can maybe be smelly and loud, at least it’s together.”