Beyond the beauty of the lakefront lies the heart of the city of Chicago. Growing up in and around the city, I consider Chicago not comprised of the obvious beauty of the beaches and the gleam of the skyscrapers, but of the regular folk who make the city “work.” These are the teachers, the city workers, the unglamorous, everyday people quietly bridging the numerous gaps that can make Chicago feel – at times – incomplete.
Brooklyn Boulders Chicago is located in the heart of the west Loop, a neighborhood rapidly changing on a daily basis. Yes, this is the neighborhood and home of some of the most progressive (and exclusive) establishments in the city. But it is also a neighborhood in flux.
In the warm summer months, I like to take the long walk to the facility from my apartment in the East Village neighborhood and immerse myself in the quiet, decay and strangeness of the West Side of the city. Block by block reveals something new to me, a girl born and bred on the West Side.
Little pockets of creativity have come and gone. The only reminder I find is the bright, bright spray paint of still-dripping graffiti art. Industry thrives in secret, too. Meat is still packed. The days continue on even as the condos rise and change looms.
What makes Chicago gritty then? Many things, I think. Yes, it is the physical makeup, at least in part. The skyline (and lack thereof in certain parts) is as representative of Chicago’s history as anything else in the city. But more than that, I believe it is the people. I’m reminded of my mother who woke early and spent nearly 35 years working as a special education teacher. I think of my grandfather, a relentless postal worker who did his job without question. Our grittiness lies in our history, our ability to get things done, to make it work, to push and keep living. It lies, like always, in us.
First two images by Sarah Le Clerc. Remaining images by Brittany Julious. The Windy City Gritty is a brand new citizen’s climbing competition from Brooklyn Boulders Chicago. Inspired by the heart and grit of the city, the Windy City Gritty is the first all citizen’s climbing competition in Chicago. Registration is now open.