Memoirs of Jazz in the Alley

40 3Arts supporters
$7,862 raised of $5,000 goal
0 Days 0:00:00 LEFT
Funded on December 01, 2022
    • 157% contributed

For years, it has been my dream to create an interdisciplinary performance event that memorializes Chicago’s historic Jazz in the Alley movement. Told through a new dance opera artform that I’m developing, Memoirs of Jazz in the Alley will celebrate a South Side tradition with original choreography, musical arrangements, and scenic and projection design. This multifaceted project will manifest as an evening-length performance scheduled to premiere in June 2023 at the Auditorium Theatre of Chicago, followed by national and international tours. It will also have an accompanying educational component for students in Chicago Public Schools.

About This Project

Jazz in the Alley was many things to the artists and community members who contributed to its presence in the alleys on 50th Street and Champlain, known as Chicago’s Black Belt more than fifty years ago. It was a cultural happening, a living ethnography of jazz on the city’s South Side, and a major influence on the development of the jazz art form that is unique to Chicago.

This history and this new work are also personal for me in many ways. Jimmy Ellis was the co-founder of Jazz in the Alley. He was a musician, educator, visual artist, and community member rooted in uplifting and supporting people through his work. He was also my father. It wasn’t until I had already founded South Chicago Dance Theatre that I started to read about my Dad’s related work as a musician. I had been doing a lot of what my Dad did with his music, through my dance company. It was invigorating to uncover so much of myself in him, and Memoirs of Jazz in the Alley is my chance to create a connective tissue between generations.

In addition to sharing the stories of this unique and regular musical gathering, Memoirs of Jazz in the Alley provides commentary on the analogous Black Arts Movement, explicating the ways in which each have respectively contributed to the formation of jazz culture worldwide. Memoirs serves as a tool for healing, bringing to the forefront the Africanist roots of jazz music and dance and reclaiming jazz’s dominant cultural narrative as a community narrative.

Much of the groundwork for this piece is already underway, with several collaborators and partners committed to its success. Memoirs will feature 25 dance artists from the South Chicago Dance Theatre (SCDT), an original score composed by Isaiah Collier, live music by Isaiah Collier and the Chosen Few, and scenic and projection design by Rasean Davonte Johnson. Through Memoirs, SCDT explores its core value of honoring the history, culture, and people of the city’s south side through creative storytelling and aims to engage new audiences around this epic sociohistorical tradition.

While we have secured some generous funding for initial development, contributions to this 3AP campaign will support critical expenses of hiring additional dance and music artists to perform in the premiere.

Thank yous

Contribute any amount or choose from the levels below.

  • $50
    Hand-written thank you note and 1 ticket to the Chicago premiere of "Memoirs" ($50.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $100
    Above plus your name listed as a member of the Director’s Circle on the SCDT website ($100.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $250
    2 tickets to the Chicago premiere, your name listed on the SCDT website as an Ensemble Member, a hand-written note, and a commemorative SCDT token ($100.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $500
    4 tickets to Chicago premiere, your name listed on the SCDT website as a Demi-Soloist, a hand-written note, and a commemorative SCDT token ($250.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $750
    6 tickets to the Chicago premiere, an exclusive invitation to a behind-the-scenes rehearsal of the creative process, plus all of the other items above. ($400.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $1000
    8 tickets to the Chicago premiere, a private dance lesson with Kia Smith, and all of the other items above ($450.00 is tax deductible.)

Kia Smith

Make a Wave Artist

A Chicago native, Kia Smith trained intensely on scholarship at The Hyde Park School of Dance, The Joel Hall Dance Center, ETA Creative Arts Foundation, and StoryCatchers Theatre, and received scholarships to attend the American Dance Festival in 2008 and …

View Kia Smith's profile
  • Update 1: THANK YOU
    Posted on December 01, 2022


    Hello Everyone,

    Thank you so much for contributing to my Memoirs of Jazz in the Alley campaign. This project means a lot to me and to South Chicago Dance Theatre. The funds raised through this campaign will cover Rasean Davonte Johnson's contract as well as some of the neccessary materials for the projection and scenic design. We're all so excited about this show going up for the Made In Chicago Series at the Auditorium in June. 

    I hope that you are having a wonderful holiday season and I look forward to sharing more with you about the show in the coming months. If you were able to provide an address, look for a handwritten note from me in the coming weeks :-) 



    • Thank you to the following for contributing to 3Arts with the recommendation that we support this project.

    • Marvin Hoffman

    • Kate Weare

    • Anonymous Supporter

    • Moiche Crawford

    • Elizabeth Halajian

    • Katherine Coyl

    • Winifred Haun

    • Lori Dimun

    • Ladonna Freidheim

    • Carolyn pampalone rabbers pampalone rabbers

    • melissa brown

    • Catherine DeJongArtman

    • Patti Eylar

    • Jennifer Edgcomb

    • Debbie Vanni

    • Rose Parisi

    • Nora Sharp


    • Aisha Robinson

    • James Buell

    • Ardonna Richardson

    • Pamela Crutchfield

    • Katrin Schnabl

    • Michael Anderson

    • Ennerèssa Davis

    • Lois Becker

    • Erica Lynette Edwards

    • Lauren Bonner

    • Lisa Rademacher

    • Kristin Samerson

    • Bernard Brown

    • Adrienne Davis-Henton

    • Melissa Mallinson

    • Jane Baas

    • Amy hutchison

    • Michael McStraw

    • Ekua McGinnis

    • Kathryn Humphreys

    • Michelle Anderson Metcalf

    • Lou Bradley

make it work


3AP Presenting Partner:

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 Additional support provided by: 

Department of Cultural Affairs logo  Illinois Arts Council