Beyond gallery walls
The Chicago Artists’ Coalition, a nonprofit organization created to champion local artists, hosts its third “Around Town” exhibition at Utrecht Art Supply. The series is designed to match artists’ work for display with local businesses like cafés, bars and retailers.
The CAC was founded 1974, and since then the membership has grown from 250 to 3,000. Members pay an annual membership for access to a number of programs and opportunities, including career-development workshops, a job-referral service, a national credit union and health insurance.
“Besides the lack of affordable health insurance, which is actually a problem for [all] self-employed individuals, artists in Chicago are faced with the ‘Second City’ challenge,” says CAC director Olga Stefan. “Many artists can make relatively good careers in Chicago, but the challenge for mid-career artists is to reach the next point.”
Stefan notes that Chicago offers “a plethora of opportunities” to its artists: hundreds of festivals, coffee shops and alternative spaces to exhibit work, as well as numerous traditional venues. “It is much more difficult and competitive in a city like New York or L.A.,” she says. “To make a good and stable career in one of those cities is almost impossible.”
Along with a monthly newsletter and event listings, the CAC’s website also offers members the opportunity to set up online galleries that they can update themselves.
“I have found that with the ever-growing and developing Internet, artists can really live anywhere,” membership coordinator Stephanie Kluk says. “I still feel artists living in bigger cities have the advantage of networking and exhibiting their work in local venues. With CAC ‘Around Town,’ I think the participating businesses appreciate Chicago artists and know how important they are for [the city].”
According to member Ken Klopac, a teacher with Chicago Public Schools whose work is featured in the exhibit, “The CAC monthly newspaper has been invaluable. It has been an excellent networking tool with its want ads, career opportunities and resources sections. I have used the info to enter shows, get commissions, etc.”
“You get out of it what you put into it,” another exhibiting member, Eric Nye, says. “It has proven to be a great source of information on local events and happenings. There is definitely the opportunity to become part of the artist community through the CAC, but you only get that benefit if you decide to get involved and come out of your shell a little.”—Josh Tyson
The Chicago Artists’ Coalition hosts its third “Around Town” exhibition at Utrecht Art Supply on Thursday 7 from 6 to 8pm (see Events).