Artistic Alphabet Mafia Brings Queer Crafters Together At Monthly Meetups

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

AVONDALE — A group of crafty queer people have been meeting up for monthly potlucks over the past year to do art together and raise money for local organizations. 

The group, Artistic Alphabet Mafia, was founded by Wicker Park resident Lelie Woods this year. Woods intended to create a space where queer people can keep each other company while working on their art projects, they said.  

“My biggest joy is hearing people become friends with each other during the meetups,” Woods said. “I’ve heard from a lot of artsy people that it can be really isolating because you spend so much time refining your craft. But if you can meet other queer, creative people in a safe space, it can really become a source of longstanding community.” 

The group’s final meetup of the year is Nov. 5 at Firefly Fiber Arts, 2860 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Avondale. 

People will gather for a potluck where they’ll work on crafts together and trade clothing and art supplies. Out of the Closet charity is providing some free clothing and supplies for people, as well. 

Tickets are $5 and available online, where you can also find more information about what to bring to the event.  

Art supplies and Goosebumps books cover the table at one of Artistic Alphabet Mafia’s meetups. Credit: Provided/Lelia Woods
Crafters got together for a meetup in October to make Halloween art together. Credit: Provided/Lelia Woods

Woods decided to create Artistic Alphabet Mafia because they want to see more affordable, sober queer spaces in the city for people with sensory needs who might struggle to socialize.

“There are so many queer spaces in the city that are amazing and beautiful, but they’re not always accessible to me as someone who’s neurodivergent and queer,” Woods said. 

Each month, the group gets together for a potluck where they swap books, scrapbook, make quilts and do other crafts together. Occasionally, the group moves around the city to visit museums, theaters and art galleries together. 

“We emphasize that element of parallel playing, where we basically just do a lot of activities together and then the socialization comes from bonding with each other while we do our own things,” Woods said. “There’s not so much pressure to maintain social contact at all times.” 

Woods also makes an effort to ensure there’s space for people to step away and decompress if they start to feel overwhelmed by the lights or level of noise wherever they are. 

Crafters work on a pride quilt they included in a raffle to raise money for Brave Space Alliance. Credit: Provided/Rachel Steele

Next year, Woods plans to host a chess tournament for trans and nonbinary people in January as well as a sapphic love letter writing event around Valentine’s Day. 

As the group continues to grow, Woods hopes to use the platform to raise more money for LGBTQ+ organizations, they said. 

In July, the group raised more than $500 for Brave Space Alliance, a Black trans-led organization that supports LGBTQ+ people on the South Side, by raffling off Pride quilts and other prizes they created together during a meetup. 

For more information about Artistic Alphabet Mafia and its meetups, visit its Instagram

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