In a recent survey published in the Singapore-based paper the Straits Times, “artist” was labeled the top nonessential job during the pandemic. Folks flocked to social media to push back and criticize the results–and rightfully so. Just because museums have been largely closed and art openings have been put on pause doesn’t mean art is absent from our everyday experience.
Art spaces are trickling back with shows, events, and exhibitions since we entered phase four of the reopening. That’s why “Artists Run Chicago 2.0” makes so much damn sense. Because they do–and they always will–run Chicago (pandemic or not).
I don’t frequent the Art Institute or the Museum of Contemporary Art all that often. I’m more of an ACRE, Heaven, Franklin kind of gal. So it’s a relief to know that the Hyde Park Art Center’s exhibition is inviting all of my favorite artist-run, DIY galleries to feature work all over the building. No need to travel up to Oak Park and down to Pilsen to try and catch several openings in one night–they are all going to be in the galleries, hallways, and even the kitchen space of HPAC.
There are 50 galleries involved in “Artists Run Chicago 2.0,” and those are just a handful of the spaces that exist in the city’s DIY art scene. Chicago thrives off of alternative art spaces. There’s even an exhibition space, Clutch, that takes place inside of a purse. Whether it’s in a backyard, a garage, or storefront, all of the spaces involved in the show are artist-run.
The Hyde Park Art Center is commemorating the anniversary of the original “Artists Run Chicago” show in 2009. Some of the galleries like 65GRAND, Julius Caesar, and Devening Projects overlap with this year’s show, but many of the galleries included in the 2.0 edition have popped up since 2009. Like many DIY spaces, some have come and gone, while others have transformed into a new gallery or project space.
In 2010, LVL3 started as a live-work space which has now turned into an inclusive exhibition space. LVL3 celebrated its ten-year anniversary in February, which is a large part of their selection of work in “Artist Run 2.0.” Vincent Uribe, the director of the gallery, says, “It’s an honor to participate alongside so many of our favorite artist-run spaces. It’s a bit surreal to think we’ve been doing year-round exhibition programming for the past ten years, having interacted with so many different artists from all over the world.”
The pieces at HPAC are work and ephemera that LVL3 has collected and archived over the years. “There are notes from artists, instructions, fragments of things left behind but they have a distinct memory tied to them to help us recognize the work we’ve put into LVL3 with so many different people involved,” Uribe says.
When I did a walk-through of the show with Allison Peters Quinn, the director of exhibitions at HPAC, she mentioned how different this opening will look compared to the 2009 exhibition. Artist-run gallery openings are known for their after-parties and the in-person connections made from artist to artist and gallery to gallery. She says that excitement will definitely be missed here as folks will have to view the show with limited capacity.
While the opening may look different, it’s still a way to engage with new galleries and project spaces. I was drawn to the library project space, Chuquimarca, and its display of a selection of Native, Caribbean, and Latinx art and history books that take a closer look at HPAC’s archive and library. Above the installation are the words “Decolonize Zhigaagoong, Defund CPD, and Defend DACA,” which, as the organizer of the space John H. Guevara explains, acknowledges “Chicago’s Indigenous legacy and racist colonial systems. The assemblage of the statement and library installation hopes to encourage Chicago’s art communities to evaluate their principles and operations with social and political issues and laws.”
Guevara says while Chicago’s independent art spaces and projects are important, “initiatives that slow down, problematize, and workshop art-making, and are vocally working to be anti-racist and anti-colonial are more imperative.” So while folks may miss gallery openings, the connections made, and professional networking, it’s all trivial in the grand scheme of reality. Folks like Guevara are utilizing this exhibition to provide education and he explains that to make art for the “visibility sake becomes secondary,” and community and healing come first. “We aren’t able to speak on other cities, but that may be the juice of Chicago’s artist-run spaces and projects.” v
The public can attend the Art Center’s opening of the exhibition on September 1 which takes place in Gallery’s 1, 2, 5, the Cleve Carney Gallery, the Kanter McCormick Gallery, and the Jackman Goldwasser Catwalk Gallery.