Art Letter

July 2012 Archives

Make No Little [Cultural] Plans
I, and a couple of 100 others, sat in on an enthusiastic meeting Wednesday with Mayor Emanuel, NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) Chairman Rocco Landesman, Ra Joy of the Illinois Arts Alliance and of course Chicago's dynamic Arts Commissioner, Michelle Boone, among others.  The discussion was about the just released Draft of the Chicago Cultural Plan.

(The Culture Plan came out of a series of public meetings in an array of Chicago communities.  I attended one of those town hall meetings where I was very impressed with the desires, insights and wisdom of the pubic-at-large.)
The Plan: 
Supplemental Material: 

Emanuel was the first substantive speaker, who clearly gets the economic impact the arts and culture bring to any city, but surprisingly spent much more time discussing culture's benefit to the quality of life. With a Mayor who was a Dance Major, the arts are appreciated and understood to be important.

As I understand it, NEA Chairman Landesman, shortly after his appointment by President Obama, expressed the notion that culture needs to cross pollinate.  This means that the NEA partners with HUD (Housing & Urban Development) who has a lot more money and periodically work on joint projects with a cultural impact. 

draft points.jpgIn Chicago, this means the DCASE (Department of  Cultural Affairs and Special Events) has recently partnered with the Department of Transportation and the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority).  Gabe Klein is the Transportation Commissioner.  A year ago he began installing bike lanes and is now identifying ways his department can augment culture in Chicago.

It is the partnership with Transportation and it's Make Way for People plan, that I find most exciting and emblematic of where the Cultural Plan will take us. Klein's Department says there are 56 plazas in Chicago, most of which I believe are the triangles created by our diagonal streets.  Transportation is converting these to "Cultural Venues" which will have small stages, or kiosks or seating areas or community gathering accomodations.  Another iteration is to consume 3-5 parking spaces and turn them into community outposts with temporary seating,  or a mini farmer's market, or occasional art displays. 

This is the spirit of what's going on.  We have a Mayor with an Arts Major, who commissions a new Culture Plan and "Inspires" his Commissioners to jump on board and they all become boosters and we benefit.

There is a lot of valuable reading in the Cultural Plan Draft (linked above) and we have an opportunity to turn out at a series of public meetings next week to hear more and have an opportunity to speak to the issues that concern us.

This is very exciting.

Thank you,
Paul Klein

PS:  So many of these things need not cost big (any?) money.  For example, one idea I'd like to see is for the buses and trains to add Cultural Public Service Announcements that include information about what cultural venues are accessible from the next stop.

Between being busy and vacationing I haven't hit the museums and galleries as regularly as I'd like. There are openings I've missed and shows I haven't been able to adequately preview. Two sources that I use for a guide are Zingrecs (which you can subscribe to) and Art Talk Chicago.

In an effort to catch up,  I want to recommend a couple of the many worthy shows that open tonight, suggest three that have opened previously and make two announcements - one for artists and the other for collectors. 

It used to be that the quality of art exhibits declined during the summer months. And while it's still true that the art business season tends to follow the school year, we're seeing solid exhibits all year. Catherine Edelman is opening Installed, which features wonderful, new work by familiar and new artists, like Gregory Scott whose newest video piece riffs on Donald Judd, and Keliy Anderson-Staley.


Roy Boyd is opening an exhibit of new paintings by Marco Casentini, who I used to represent, who continues his studies of ocean light and architecture. 

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There are at least three strong exhibits that have opened previously. The Architecture show at the Museum of Contemporary Art is a strong look at artists who address or reference architecture in their work. Some of the work I liked; some I didn't; but that's always the nature of theme and/or group exhibits. The quality and provocativeness persevere.



At Corbett vs. Dempsey at show by Vivian Maier opened a couple of weeks ago. The work by the posthumously discovered photographer remains strong. There's a variety of intrigue at play here. Several factions have laid claim to various portions of her oeuvre. C vs D has original images printed by Maier. Others have access to the negatives and have printed them as they see fit. What constitutes the best approach remains to be seen. Fortunately, all are presenting the art with integrity and conscientiousness - just not agreement. 

I'm an advocate for artists being in charge of their careers. When an artist makes wonderful work and dies before ever exhibiting it, the perils of different well-intended agendas reveals pitfalls. I hope the story does not become more significant than the art.

Juan Angel Chavez is a particularly gifted and perpetually more recognized Chicago artist. At Linda Warren, his art and his career continue to grow. Though he hasn't had a gallery exhibit in 2 years I fear he's getting over exposed locally with major work in the ArtChicago lobby and the DePaul Museum within that time frame. Regardless, his art is always growing, reaching into uncomfortable places, often triumphantly and occasionally just clunking. These are the signs of a strong artist; one who has the ability to put work into the public realm, to live with its effectiveness, learn from it and move forward, expanding one's vocabulary and technical ability, and paving new ground. Also on view are gorgeous, delicate new pieces by my good friend, Glenn Goldberg. 

L1060713.jpgTwo announcements: I'm super impressed with a new project initiated by the Chicago Artists Coalition. Four Accomplished Curators will mentor four Curator Residents who will select 24 Artist Residents and all will work together for one year. This is a great way to teach and grow.  Bravo. More information is available here

Chicago Sculpture International is a dynamic, local chapter of the International Sculpture Center and they are holding a benefit for themselves in a couple of weeks. This is a fabulous opportunity to get familiar with the quality of sculpture here and to scoop up some wonderful art.

Thanks very much,
Paul Klein