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Map quest

Amateur cartographers draw up their own Chicago points of interest in Notes for a People's Atlas.


Google Maps can tell you how to get from point A to point B, but it’s the journey in between that holds the most interesting information. Those details get the spotlight in Notes for a People’s Atlas of Chicago, a project launched in February 2006 by AREA Chicago, a local biannual magazine that weighs in on art, education and grassroots activism. AREA distributes sheets featuring the geographic outline of Chicago and invites people to map out their specific knowledge of the city then submit it at one of eight specified drop boxes (see Through October 1, AREA is taking submissions for maps about 1968 Chicago.

Notes for a People’s Atlas has spawned similar projects in cities ranging from Skokie to New York City, and will be included in Experimental Geography, a book and traveling exhibit exploring the intersection between art and geography ( Below are some of the more than 200 map submissions with comments from AREA editor Daniel Tucker.

“Progressive Chicago”
“Here is a map by Peter Zelchenko, a lifelong Chicagoan and activist who was actually arrested last week [while] organizing against the Latin School’s building of a soccer field in Lincoln Park. He’s very interested in tracking radical politics as they’ve concentrated themselves in different parts of the city.”

“I moved to Chicago in 1997…”
“One way to interpret this map of one art school student’s transient housing situation through a decade is seeing that he followed just ahead of patterns of gentrification in the city. That situation of getting pushed around as rents rise is a situation that many residents can relate to.”

“Co-op Houses in Hyde Park”
“This is a really interesting map because, while we have the outline of Chicago provided as the template, they focused in on one area with a little pop-out area of Hyde Park. A lot of extraordinary people probably lived there between the ’30s and the ’90s, because of the university down there and the unique culture of Hyde Park as a progressive, intellectual hub of activity.”

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