Links Hall this year is celebrating, acknowledging, its 40 years of existence, a long time, especially considering that most of the people involved in Links these days – as artists, audience members, staff – were just, as they say, a gleam in their parents’ eyes.

As one who was there in the beginning, 40 years ago, it is always tempting, in such situations, to wax nostalgia, in the end something of a fool’s errand, as the many memories, and rightly so, become warmer- yes, I distinctly remember crawling out the window onto a ladder and coming back in naked, walking across the space into one of the closets, on a hot summer evening, the El train rumbling by.  I am happy for that moment.  As well as grateful.

And yes I am grateful that, 40 years later, Links Hall is still here. It brings me pleasure that something I have been so closely associated with continues on.  And continue on it does, as does the question of what is the role of a small arts organization like Links.

Bob Eisen in "Past, Past, Present" Photo by Matthew Gregory Hollis (2016)

In the broader scale of things there never was and never will be a “lot” of people going in and out of Links Hall. And it’s a simple fact that most people in any particular audience know someone who is performing, or at least have a good idea of what they are getting into. Links is at heart a community center, an aspect not to be minimized, a place where people can gather and feel part of something, as most everything else that is going on in the world seems far away and spinning out of control.

It is also a place where this thing we call art is produced and presented, which raises a whole host of other questions- is the art any good, and who should be making that judgment and for that matter should there be any judgment at all?  Does it have value?  Does anyone outside the confines of the Links Hall community care, should they and does that matter?  Does it make any difference to the people going by on the #49 Western Ave. bus?

I ask myself these questions, as well as the corollary questions- what is the role of an artist, a word I don’t throw around lightly, presenting work at Links Hall?  At the age of 72, how could I not?  And, as a straight white basically privileged male, what kind of agenda am I supposed to have; is it enough to crawl out the window and crawl back in naked, a variation which was seen a few years back, sans the window, in Link’s present home. Certainly old enough I am to look back and wonder what kind of mark I someday will have left in the world, did I make a difference?  Were I to have a gravestone, which I won’t, and written on were the words “one of the founders of Links Hall Studio”, well, that’s a legacy of some sort, not exactly along the lines of “he was a tireless crusader for the poor and impoverished”, or even “he was a stellar Merce Cunningham dancer”, but also could be written “he brought joy into peoples’ lives by the way he presented himself, and along the way he created some pretty interesting dances”, which, fact is, wouldn’t have been possible without this place we call Links Hall, and fact is, too, that Links has offered me too many to count always welcoming creative outlets, including this one, and for that I am extremely grateful.

And so we, I with cranky knees and occasional cranky mind, and Links, with a 40 year history intact, continue on. Thank you for reading this.