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Safe(r) Space

I Sustain - Gallery and Workspace | Art, Prints, Zines, Workshops | Chicago, IL

We acknowledge no space can be completely safe and free from oppression. Within our work space, gallery and communities we do our best, and ask that others be proactive in creating safer spaces for women, people of color, queer and trans folks and the differently abled. Creating supportive, non-threatening and accessible environments that encourage open-mindedness, respect, a willingness to learn from others, as well as physical and mental safety.

Everyone visiting and working at Sustain is asked to be aware of their language and behavior, and to think about whether it might be harmful to others. This is no space for violence, for touching people without their consent, for being intolerant of someone’s religious beliefs or lack thereof, for being creepy, sleazy, racist, ageist, sexist, hetero-sexist, trans-phobic, able-bodiest, classist, sizist, or for using any other behavior or language that may perpetuate oppression.

There can be no definitive list of behaviors / comments / situations which make people feel uncomfortable. So one of the best and most important things to do is to concentrate on how your actions/language can is affecting others, and modify your behavior as appropriate. Sustain aims to be a space that fosters expression, acceptance, sustainability and growth through creative work for people belonging to marginalized communities. And so we uphold an expectation for ourselves, our work and our friends to respect the identities, experiences, and histories of the people around us.  

Some tips, Dos and Do nots about communication, personal privilege, and how to help maintain a safe(r) space.

Try to remain open to discussion of ways to improve communication in the space, and continually question the privilege you have (e.g. from being older, from being an "experienced" activist/artist, from utilizing the space more frequently, from your ethnicity, from your gender, etc). It's your responsibility to ensure you aren't taking up too much "space", and devaluing or disregarding the opinions and experiences of others. Respect other's thoughts and opinions. This doesn't mean we all have to agree, but that discussion is entered without prejudice or personal insult.  It is also important to uphold this when critiquing others art work, trying to objectively make judgments. Take responsibility for your own actions, and consider how your behavior and speech affect others. Remember that not everyone reacts the same way, and do not expect any one reaction!

Pay attention to body language, as people often use non-verbal clues to communicate a lack of consent and uncomfort (e.g. not making eye contact, making excuses to move away from you, not responding to your physical advances).  Respect everyone’s physical and emotional boundaries.  Ask first before touching a person or their things, and listen and change your behavior if someone tells you that you are making them uncomfortable. Check in before discussing topics that might be triggering (e.g. sexual abuse, sexual experiences, violence, or encounters with the police).

Sustain is a minority oriented space. Respect the pronouns and names of everyone.  Do not assume anyone’s gender identity, sexual preference, survivor status, economic status, ethnicity, health, etc. Respect other’s experiences and histories! Accept that there is oppression you cannot experience or understand. Recognize that oppression has deep roots and is caused by many sources, your privilege is connected with someone else’s oppression.

There may be certain situations when you feel comfortable using language which some may find offensive or derogatory,  Sustain is not an appropriate space for this. You do not know who will overhear you, and how they will react.

If you experience harassment, abuse, or violence at Sustain or if a perpetrator of violence is interfering with your participation in an event/discussion, please approach a Sustain community member whom you feel comfortable talking to. They are here to help with any conflicts arising from the violation of our policies. We are here to maintain a safer space.

Sustain is DRY. There are no drugs or alcohol permitted to be used within the space during events or otherwise. Sustain reserves the ability to ask any person who is in violation of our guidelines/space policies to leave.

Our community is what empowers us to enforce these rules. We actively strive to respect and understand our women, queer and trans, people of color, and differently abled friends. And as stated earlier, Sustain has the absolute ability to ask anyone who is in violation of our safer space policies to leave when asked.