portoluz – meaning "harbor of light” is a Chicago-based non-profit organization currently under development as a new cultural center with a restaurant, artist’s residence, and community gardens. portoluz was formed to provide sustainable environments for innovative artistic exploration, community development, and a wide range of cultural discourse.
portoluz cites its origins in the successful evolution of HotHouse. In 1987 Marguerite Horberg established HotHouse primarily to showcase artists who were working in non-commercial genres, whose work was experimental, or from populations who were under-recognized and disenfranchised by either other arts institutions or the commercial marketplace. Each year, HotHouse hosted over 500 multi-arts programs that attracted 70,000 people. Under Horberg’s tenure HotHouse evolved into a $2M organization employing 45 people. It became one of the country’s most well regarded places to experience international culture, while locally it was known as a cultural institution that fundamentally changed the paradigm of community-based cultural centers in Chicago.
HotHouse was at the forefront of supporting international arts exchanges and developing audiences for many unknown artists before they gained wider acceptance. The New York Times wrote: "Few clubs anywhere offer a wider range of first-rate world music, from wildly vibrant Afro-pop to avant-garde jazz, than HotHouse."
In 2006, upon the demise of HotHouse, stakeholders recognized an opportunity to expand upon the original business model and exponentially increase the impact of its achievements. Partisan Arts International (now named, portoluz) was formed to capture these opportunities. portoluz was incorporated by a majority of former HotHouse board members, its artistic and curatorial leadership team and other successful Chicago-based practitioners in the fields of arts, technology, and social enterprise who convened in 2007.
The publicity surrounding HotHouse presented some extraordinary challenges to portoluz. Consequently, an aspect of the organization’s work in the last three years has been related to developing the organization’s business model under a new “brand”, not only during a severe economic crisis, but while also negotiating the narratives surrounding the events of the demise of HotHouse. Notwithstanding these challenges, portoluz successfully achieved the benchmarks of its start-up phase, from incorporating, to drafting strategic and business plans, recruiting and developing a new board of directors, launching volunteer committees, presenting critically praised public programs and fundraising.
One of the hallmarks of the popularity of HotHouse was its diverse cultural programming and its fixture as a venue for public interaction among various and disparate communities. When HotHouse closed, a void was created with regard to the kind of all-purpose community space and the kinds of international cultural exchanges the founder Marguerite Horberg had facilitated. This void has largely remained unfulfilled and locally multiple cohorts of grassroots activists, artists, and ad-hoc community groups are supporting portoluz in seeking a venue or venues to collectively replace the kind of comprehensive resources HotHouse had extended.
About portoluz programs
In the interim while seeking a permanent site for its operations, the thirty-plus members associated with portoluz, work to develop high-quality arts programming in multiple venues and actively seek curating partners and other academic and institutional collaborators to conceive and develop program content and build diverse audiences throughout the Chicago-land area. portoluz develops its programs in response to a variety of community needs and seeks to extend the milieu of the academy and position high caliber (and international) arts innovation before underserved populations of the Chicago metropolitan region.
The mission of portoluz is to expose audiences to a wide range of cultural expression in order to encourage respect for our diversity and promote greater understanding of differing artistic and intellectual traditions and perspectives.