Breaking down the issues: Using art to keep residents informed
BY CARRIE EIDSON
Medill Reports Chicago
FEB 28, 2013
Ask any local blogger, and they’ll tell you: one form of community improvement is giving residents a better knowledge and understanding of the issues and events surrounding their neighborhood. And Meryl Williams and Sarah Morton of 60625 News have found that one of the best ways to inform residents is through art.
Williams began 60625 News, a blog that covers the Lincoln Square area, in that fall of 2012. Shortly thereafter, Morton, an urban planner and friend of Williams, introduced the idea of using comics to convey some of the issues affecting the neighborhood. The comics, which appear monthly, became one of the site’s most popular features.
“There’s always really high traffic for the comic posts,” Williams said. “She’s talking about issues that people are interested in and I do like how she takes really complex issues and breaks it down into a really easy-to-digest format. The art really brings it to life in a way.”
Morton, who has published a small collection of comics in addition to those on the news site, has worked as an urban planner in Chicago since 2007. Morton says it was the inaccessibility of the principals and jargon of urban planning that inspired her to create the comic series for 60625 News.
“We all just sort of talk in this language to each other and anyone listening in would have no idea what we’re talking about,” Morton said. “But it affects everybody. Everyone has to find a home, find a job and make their way around the city. And people weren’t talking about this in a way that makes sense to people, so that’s why I wanted to do a comic with Meryl.”
Morton’s comics for 60625 News have covered issues of gentrification, transportation and architectural preservation. Future comic plans include hidden spaces in Lincoln Square, public meeting spaces and neighborhood design.