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Kevin Smokler
Writer | Filmmaker | Host

Books Film Culture Notebook



Kevin Smokler is the author of 3 books, the director of one documentary film and a boatload of essays and cultural criticism.

He's spoken at and hosted events about pop culture and human creativity in our changing world at universities, conferences, corporations, libraries and taverns of ill repute throughout North America.

He likes people.


"Culture in the People's Palace"

That's two ideas I stuck together after visiting the Chicago Culture Center a few years back: "The People's Palace" is the building's nickname and the structure, once a civil war memorial, now presents hundreds of arts and educational programs to the people of Chicago and its visitors every year. Its beauty matches its mission as a place of ideas, sharing, and us people celebrating how we make stuff to represent who we are.

That's culture. I carry the image and mission of that building inside me. A lot of what we call "culture" is the same as what we call "art." I flip them back and forth too. But I don't have much patience with whatever snobbery or pretense we give those words. I call myself both an artist and a maker of culture because I write books and make movies and give talks. Really, I'm just someone who tries to make stuff out of what he sees every day, to make everyday bigger than ordinary. Then share it with you.

Making stuff---books, movies, music, paintings, dance pieces or buildings--means taking an idea and watching it grow from a seed to a tree, from a brick to a neighborhood. You grow as it does, learning what ideas and time are capable of making true. At first you are just grabbing hold of the wind. Soon you learn to steer by it. You are never its master but you do learn how much further you can go and that you will never truly get there and that's been the truth of it all along.

Only now, after writing professionally for the better part of 30 years, speaking professionally for 20 and making films for 5, do I feel it's who I am. It will never be easy and I'll never be as gifted as my heroes and teachers, nor will I rise as majestically as The People's Palace. But I rise every morning to make stuff, building neighborhoods, planting trees, and using the ordinary to fly.

It's too late to arrive anywhere else, now that I am home. We all live in the palace we made for each other.