Can Artists Build a True Community in Chicago? by William Dolan

The Neighborhood

We can create our own community, but I think Chicago is lacking the serious collectors (or they’re hiding or something). We want to show in top-tier galleries and get a fair price for our work as well as the recognition that that garners. There doesn’t seem to be much here to sustain the commercial side of things. The Peoria Street and Apt. Gallery scene flourishes, because the participating artists aren’t looking to make a living from their work. They’ve created a community, show to each other and to hipsters, friends, etc. There is also a fair amount of exchange with other similar communities in other cities, but it’s a party scene. It does not support itself. It needs outside funding from grants, day jobs, etc. The other alternative is the Chicago Artist Coalition (CAC) community. It’s not really self-sustaining either. It’s essentially a group of people showing their work in bars, coffee shops store fronts, street fairs. Some people do make some side money, but that hardly makes it a profession. Recognition is only among their peers and friends.

Building your own community is sort of a “build it and they will come” model. I am not convinced that the “they” are here. I think we really have to seriously look elsewhere to exhibit while doing all we can to get something going here.

It’s possible that something can happen, but we need buy-in from the institutions and big players (prominent critics, collectors, curators, etc.). Perhaps we can reach out to them for support — convince them that there are worthy artists creating work in Chicago. We need someone to champion artists on the national and world scene — another Dennis Adrian. Then the word can get out that Chicago has something going on. We need more than just a bunch of hungry artists.