When Oak Park and River Forest High School alumnus Tony Foley, 22, graduated from Knox College in Galesburg this summer with his bachelor’s degree in creative writing, he could’ve headed for the coasts or downtown Chicago. Instead, Foley decided to resettle in the place where he grew up.

“We want to defeat the idea that you have to leave, because all of our parents probably still live here, our family and our roots are still here, our childhood is here,” said Foley during a recent interview. 

“So instead of having kids in the next generation come back to face this myth that Oak Park isn’t cool or it doesn’t have a cultural scene, we decided to help out,” he said. “This is where our roots are and we want to respect that and payback what was given to us.”

After graduating college, Foley started Callosum Magazine, a creative arts publication that’s also a digital stage for the artistic community Foley and his 20-something artists in arms — who include poets, comics, actors, musicians and painters — have forged in the Oak Park area over the last several months. 

In addition to the magazine’s website, Foley’s volunteer staff of eight, all of them OPRF graduates, have organized monthly showcases in the Oak Park Arts District on Harrison Street since August. The events, Foley said, have averaged more than 60 attendees each night. 

Foley said the Harrison District as a whole has eagerly embraced the showcases and helped underwrite Callosum’s mission by donating space and lending resources to their efforts. The group is looking to take their online magazine into print next year and are exploring numerus fundraising options. 

“Callosum is a shortening of the corpus callosum, which is a region in the brain that connects the two hemispheres,” said Foley, when describing the inspiration for his project, for which he serves as artistic director and textual editor. 

“We have this right and left way of thinking that’s the old way of understanding the brain,” Foley said. “The corpus callosum is the intermediary, the organ that enables conversation between the two hemispheres. I like the idea of taking these different ways of thinking and making them talk.”

The cerebral imagery is a fitting metaphor for the project. During a roughly hour-long interview, Callosum’s co-creators swatted down one myth after another concerning the world of young artists — a reality they’re uniquely situated to represent. 

“There’s the myth that the artist is lonely and has to do it themselves and figure out their own voice on their own,” said Caleb Awe, 22, Callosum’s performance director and textual editor. “What we’re trying to do is foster a community where an artist shouldn’t be afraid to share what they have. It’s all about getting the work out there and facilitating the conversation.” 

Awe and Foley said that they have a pretty open submission process. Artists and writers in a wide range of media can submit their work as long as they’re open to having it peer-reviewed and constructively critiqued. The model for Callosum, Foley said, is based on a literary magazine called Cellar Door he helped operate at Knox. 

Callosum’s sense of openness and community also hearkens to Crest, the literary magazine at OPRF, where many of Callosum’s collaborator’s cut their teeth. The idea there wasn’t to reject developing creatives, but to cultivate their evolution. 

“As young artists, the myth is that you’re not going to make it, nobody’s going to publish you, you’re not going to pay the bills as an artist,” Foley said. “I think that those types of myths detract people from actually trying, so we have a welcoming environment where anyone who submits, as long as they’re willing to listen to our feedback, we’ll publish them no questions asked.” 

Callosum’s next showcase will take place on Oct. 21, 8 p.m., at Intuit Dance Studio, 237 Harrison St. Admission is $5. To view the magazine online visit callosummagazine.com. Email submissions to callosummagazine@gmail.com.

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com 

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