A Community Affair: Exploring Contemporary Art in Chicago
By Hanna Exel
When I set out for a week in Chicago I thought I would be able to leave with a comprehensive, fully formed picture of the city’s contemporary art scene. Instead, I found myself exploring only the tip of a very large iceberg. From a handful of boisterous alternative art spaces to the Brave New Art World gallery crawl to the venerable Museum of Contemporary Art and beyond, I saw a huge range of non-traditional models for producing, exhibiting, and funding contemporary art. I also met with a number of the people whose commitment, enthusiasm, and innovative ideas have helped to make the art scene in Chicago the vibrant network that it is.
My first visit was to Spudnik Press Cooperative on Chicago’s West Side. Angee Lennard launched Spudnik several years ago with weekly studio sessions in her one-bedroom apartment. Now, the co-op inhabits an expansive loft space with a classroom, a gallery, and facilities for screenprinting, intaglio, lithography, and letterpress printmaking. Angee showed me around the space and talked about how and why the cooperative model works at Spudnik. The Press offers a wide range of services to members and non-members alike; they rent studio space, host classes, administer a residency and, of course, offer the use of their printmaking equipment at an affordable rate. Equally important, though, is Spudnik’s function as a hub for members of Chicago’s printmaking community to come together and share skills and knowledge. As any printmaker knows, printmaking works best as a collaborative process; even the most seasoned practitioner can learn new techniques from other printers, or at least benefit from having a pair of clean hands around to pull pristine sheets of paper from the press bed. The importance of a local community coming together to produce and support art would prove to be a recurring theme throughout my time in Chicago.
To read the full article, click here.