Meida Teresa McNeal is a performing artist with Honey Pot Performance, Arts & Culture Manager for Chicago Park District, and a self-described “artist-administrator-educator”. She grew up in the Fifth City neighborhood of East Garfield Park on Chicago’s West Side, where her parents participated in ICA’s Fifth City community development project in the 1960s.
Curious about her own memories and her parents’ stories, Meida began to explore the history of Fifth City. Her journey eventually led her to our Global Archives project, where she connected with colleagues Jean Long, Karen Snyder, and Pam Bergdall, among others. The wealth of information—records, reports, stories—in the Archives helped Meida develop her solo performance project, entitled Fifth City revisited / Imaginal Politics reimagined, which she performed four times in Chicago this past month.
Fifth City revisited weaves together interpretive dance, spoken word, symbol, audio, video, props, and dynamic lighting into an hour-long meditation on the implications of the Fifth City project on everything from her childhood and family to discriminatory policy, urban planning, and contemporary movements for social justice. It is a stunning work that presents an uncanny understanding of ICA’s history and values while effectively contextualizing them for a broader audience.
Near the end of the performance, Meida reads from The 5th City Presuppositions, a seminal address by Fifth City community leader Lela B. Mosley. In the Presuppositions, Mosley outlines five fundamental principles that guided the project: work in a delimited geographical area, address all the problems, involve all the people, address the depth human problem, and symbol is key. A projection at the back of the room illuminated each principle in bright, bold letters. Between each principle were shown alternating images that are now iconic for ICA. These included the wedge blade, which is integrated into the current logo, the social process triangles, which provide the language of “the cultural dimension of the social process” in the current mission statement, and the Iron Man statues, which still stands in Fifth City today.
Several reviews have been written about the work, including those by Briana Alexis Heath, Ayako Kato, and Samantha Allen. While there are currently no scheduled performances, Meida has expressed interest in bringing the performance home to the West Side for additional showings. Recordings were made of two of the performances, which she hopes to share in the coming weeks.
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