Marguerite Horberg is a Chicago activist.
Marguerite Horberg is an artist, social justice activist and entrepreneur who successfully married these tendencies in successive iconic businesses, most notably: Studio V, The Salon of Modalisque and HotHouse. Marguerite has been at the forefront of cultivating recognition and amplification for artists and other non-commercial or otherwise disenfranchised voices and has established numerous platforms for international cultural exchange: including the Chicago World Music Festival, The Flamenco Festival, Jazz en Clave and Jazz without Borders.
Throughout her thirty- year career, she has organized over 7,000 community- based programs including concerts with Hugh Masekela, Gil Scott Heron, and the US debut of Cuban legends, Los Van Van. Her work as an impresario has been widely chronicled; including reviews in Art in America and the New York Times. Locally, she has been awarded the Chicago Tribune’s Chicagoan of the Year Award and the Arts and Business Council’s Excellence in Arts Management Award, the Abbey. Marguerite Horberg is currently developing sustainable venues for progressive culture via the next iteration of HotHouse. She was a former member of the Visiting Committee of the Department of Music at the University of Chicago and is currently serving as an Advisory Board member of Links Hall Studios, and The Public Square.
In its heyday the HotHouse — starting in 1987 when it opened as CIPEX (Center for International Performance and Exhibition) on Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park and later, more prominently, from 1998 to 2007 at 31 E. Balbo Drive in the South Loop — the HotHouse was what Chicago magazine called "the most beautiful club in the city."
The lively publication Barfly deemed it "a Mecca, if you will, of artistic and musical diversity." I referred to it in print as "one of the best clubs on the planet … an eclectic explosion of films, forums, readings and mostly music, a vast and varied offering, full of spicy surprises."
It was also a club with a serious social consciousness, frequently providing forums for social issues and hosting benefits in support of issues such as the rights of undocumented workers.
The end was messy: Founder and guiding spirit Marguerite Horberg was forced out as executive director by a reconstituted board in July 2006. By the next summer, that board, citing a $70,000 cash shortfall (against a $1.4 million annual budget), began what it called a "major capital campaign to secure a new permanent home in Chicago" without any involvement by Horberg.
And so the HotHouse closed its doors in July 2007. At the time, Horberg said, "It all could have been avoided had these people (on the reconstituted board) resigned when we asked them to."
That didn't happen, but Horberg kept busy, planning to open a new club here and another in New York (those dreams were quickly crushed by the economic downturn) and starting an organization she called portoluz (roughly Spanish for "harbor of light"), a not-for-profit that presented a variety of multidisciplinary programs at different venues throughout this area.
"We had to adapt to being an itinerant company, moving from tent to tent," Horberg says. "When the end of HotHouse came, we were left with nothing: no computer, not even a chair to sit on. And a lot of confusion. It was basically me and a lot of volunteers moving on."
She is ready for the next, and very big, step. It begins Friday with the start of what is being billed as the Old and New Dreams Festival at the Promontory, 5311 S. Lake Park Ave. West in Hyde Park.
It is an end to a yearlong series that has been, as Horberg describes it, "exploring immigration, migrations, exiles and transmutations of borders in a multidisciplinary arts context," but also a beginning, as Horberg is set to announce the rebirth of HotHouse.
"It's taken all this time to overcome the past, to get our ducks in a row, form a new board," Horberg says. "We were careful in how we proceeded."
Sometime during all of this, Horberg will announce her plans for the new HotHouse.
"It is full steam ahead now," she says. "We looked at more than 100 sites across the city before finally settling on a space in Bronzeville. We have talked to the alderman and have had meetings with the owners, but there is still a bit of work left to be done."
Unwilling to talk specifics about the new location "until everything's squared away," she does talk about money, the $3 million for the entire rebirth, and, of that, some $300,000 necessary to seal the building deal.
"A project as big as this for a nonprofit is difficult," Horberg says. "It's a substantial capital campaign, but I am confident. The new board is great, and we have 30 other advisers from all walks of life. This has taken longer than I ever imagined, but throughout it all I have been emboldened by meeting so, so many people who all had the same thing to say."
This is what they said: "I can't wait for HotHouse to come back."
That wait is scheduled to end late next year or early in 2016.
Committees of Correspondence connection
Communist Party USA
Joan Elbert, Barbara Russum, Bea Lumpkin, William Appelhans, Bill Mackovich, Carolyn Black, Carroll Krois, Dee Myles , Doug Freedman, Frank Lumpkin, John Bachtell, Kevin Collins, Lance Cohn, Mark Almberg, Marguerite Horberg, Martha Pedroza, Mike Giocondo, Pepe Lozano, Roberta Wood, Scott Marshall, Shelby Richardson, Sijisfredo Aviles, Sue Webb, Terrie Albano.
In These Times
Robyn Gabel has ties to Marguerite Horberg.
- Chicago CoC "Membership, Subscription and Mailing List" 10.14.94
- We salute the labor movement!, People's World, September 1, 2006
- In These Times website: About