Chicago Neighborhood Family Portrait Project

102 3Arts supporters
$5,850 raised of $5,000 goal
0 Days 0:00:00 LEFT
Funded on April 15, 2019
    • 117% contributed

As a community artist with more than twenty years of experience working in schools and arts organizations, I am excited to launch an expanded Chicago Neighborhood Family Portrait Project that will provide free family portraits to people in their neighborhood. For the past four years, I have taken photographs in Little Village, North Lawndale, Pilsen, Hyde Park, and Roscoe Village as a way of exploring the meaning of family and the impacts of gentrification in our city. It has been inspirational to learn about people’s stories, who they consider family, and what meaning the physical archive of the photograph has for them. With funds raised through this campaign, I will be able to take more than 300 family portraits plus interview people about their experiences with race and gentrification throughout Chicago. In collaboration with cultural centers and community organizations across the city, I will be able to engage people who are interested in having access to a free family portrait, amplify stories that are often untold, and learn how displacement affects Chicago residents and their neighborhoods.

About This Project

Growing up as a child of migrant parents who moved various times throughout my childhood, we did not have many opportunities to take family portraits. The only one I remember was taken when I was fourteen at a cousin’s Quinceañera (a Mexican celebration similar to a sweet sixteen party), which my mother still cherishes today. When I started making these free portraits for other families in Chicago, one thing that struck me was how many people didn’t have anything like this already in their home. They loved having the physical print as a memento that their family could cherish for generations.

What began as a response to my family’s lack of access to photographs also revealed how much this documentation impacts the stories of the communities and neighborhoods in which we live. My mother used our family album to share stories about our experiences. It marked important parts of our complex and shared narrative. The physical photograph became a document of our lived experience. It held power, and my mother passed that down to us through the stories it held. In a time where there are many photographs shared via social media, it is important to me that there are more photographs and stories to pass down to loved ones, especially people whose experiences are little-known or misrepresented.

Gentrification and displacement are pervasive in a city like Chicago. Often times the people most adversely affected by this also have decades or generations of history living in these places. For this project, I’ll be setting up a makeshift photo studio in places like this, to help collect these stories as well as honor the spirit and contributions of marginalized people. Their innovation as entrepreneurs, makers and cultural ambassadors that respond to their own needs, is also part of why this project exists. It reminds us that we can build the spaces we need for ourselves and we must continue to preserve our stories and share them. 

As a Mexican male, my presence and intentions in public spaces are sometimes questioned. The Chicago Neighborhood Family Portrait Project provides an opportunity for various people in the community to engage with me as a community artist and educator. Through this, we discuss how we define family, whose stories are told, and how gentrification affects them. In the process I share with them resources in the community, opportunities for artmaking in neighborhood organizations, and possible projects we can generate together. People share with me project ideas they would like to see, concerns I should address, people I should work with, and spaces I should access.

This project is ongoing, and your help will ensure that it grows and strengthens the representation of diverse experiences present in Chicago. Your support will allow for people to engage in collaborative, community-relevant art projects that are intentionally created to position art as a catalyst for change.

Donations will be used to buy materials and pay for labor. I have already secured support from various cultural neighborhood centers and organizations and plan on securing additional funding from institutions that may be interested in hosting family portrait sessions in their neighborhoods. In case I exceed my funding goal, I will use the funding to purchase more materials for future portraits.

The Chicago Neighborhood Family Portrait Project will achieve the following: 1) Provide people that wouldn’t necessarily have access to family portraits an opportunity to have a physical photograph for free, 2) Provide an opportunity for me as an artist and educator to talk to people about their stories and the importance of documenting personal stories within our neighborhoods, 3) Produce photographs and record stories that challenge narratives about marginalized communities.

Thank yous

Contribute any amount or choose from the levels below.

  • $25
    A thank you shout-out via Facebook. ($25.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $50
    Shout-out via Facebook plus a printed sticker that states your support for families (designed by William). ($45.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $100
    Shout-out via Facebook plus a t-shirt stating your support for community-based art practices (designed by William). ($80.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $250
    Shout-out via Facebook plus the opportunity for me to organize a family portrait session in your Chicago neighborhood (materials valued at $75). ($175.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $500
    Shout-out via Facebook plus a 1-hour private portrait session for your family in your Chicago neighborhood (includes one printed photograph and all the digital files, materials valued at $200). ($300.00 is tax deductible.)

William Estrada

Community Awardee

William Estrada grew up in California, Mexico, and Chicago. His teaching and art making practice focus on addressing inequity, migration, historical passivity, and cultural recognition in historically marginalized communities. He documents and engages experiences in public spaces to transform, question, …

View William Estrada's profile
  • Update 1: I earned my 3Arts match!
    Posted on March 16, 2019


    Thank you for your support and contributions! I would love to have this project funded by as many people accross the Chicagoland area as possible. Keep the momentum going by sharing the Chicago Neighborhood Family Portrait Project with your family, with your friends, and with your colleagues. Share your own family portrait stories in the comments area of the 3AP Campaign page or on social media and use the hashtags #familyportraitproject #werdmvmnt # 3artsprojects

    Update 2: We did it! Thank you for all your love!
    Posted on March 23, 2019


    Thank you so much for your unconditional support! Your love for art in neighborhoods makes the Chicago Neighborhood Family Portrait Project so much more special! Let's keep the momentum going and aim to reach a stretch goal of $8,000 which will help triple the amount of photogrpahs I can take in Chicago neighborhoods!

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

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make it work


3AP Presenting Partner:

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 Additional support provided by: 

Department of Cultural Affairs logo  Illinois Arts Council