The Chicago Artists Coalition: Building Community and Spaces for Artists. Literally.

BOLT Alumni Exhibition

Exhibition view of “A Challenge to the Summer Group Show: BOLT Alumni Exhibition & Dialogue.” Photo credit: Joseph Belknap.


The Chicago art scene has never been New York’s in terms of the number of overall galleries, artists, critics, and patrons. But, as a biased Chicagoan, I’d argue that this has been a benefit to many of our artists and by extension, the world at large. While we’ve won renown for our collections and art institutions, the local artists found their own paths to supporting themselves and their peers. One could argue that this has helped artists dig deeper and develop their personal styles to a greater degree and to even be irreverent(!) towards prevailing movements, which, of course, is where the really interesting stuff comes in.

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“The Entry of Christ into Chicago,” 1976. Artist: Roger Brown. Brown was an important part of Chicago’s art scene in the 1970s (and in the following couple of decades) as part of the Chicago Imagists movement. The Roger Brown Study Collection, a house museum, gallery space, and archive is still open to the public. His collection is incredible. If you haven’t been to the Roger Brown House

Getting into the history of art in Chicago is more a novel than a blog post, but it’s worth digging into the history of groups and smaller museums such as the Hyde Park Art Center, the DuSable Museum, the Chicago Imagists, the Public Art Workshop, Movimiento Artistico Chicago, and Artemesia, which played especially important roles for artists in the 1960s and 70s. These entities fostered creative environments, outlets for social activism and overall support in a city that is and was incredibly diverse but not investing much in its local artists. We’ve exported many of our best and most innovative artists through the years, but their roots in Chicago were undeniably crucial to their development.

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Public Art Workshop mural project created with Chicago Community Youth in 1970. “Protect the People’s Homes.” Photo credit: Mark Rogovin. There is an excellent archive of Rogovin’s photographs documenting public art murals during this time here.

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Recent group discussion of a Chicago Artists Coalition HATCH Projects exhibition “Extraordinary Effort, Spectacular Failure.” Photo credit: Lori Felker.

This is why we were so excited to connect with the Chicago Artists Coalition (CAC), another group that grew out of the 1970s movement to create a better environment and future for Chicago’s artistic community. As the identity and needs of local artists have evolved, the Coalition’s approaches and advocacy have adapted to keep artists working and supported. A number of workshops are hosted in a wide variety of mediums, including providing opportunities for emerging artists to hone their ability to mount professional exhibitions in the CAC’s gallery space. You know what building and installing an exhibit requires? Incredible amounts of creativity and lead preparators who can teach best practices and innovative, experimental methods for installation and exhibition? Yes. But it also requires, well, tools.

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Install THAT. Gallery view of installation by HATCH Artists, Mara Baker and Nina Barnett. Photo credit: Eva Deitch.

We’ll show off some installation building (something I’ve certainly never gotten to see in action) in the near future with the help of some Craftsman tools and fantastic teachers and Chicago artists. In the meantime, check out current workshops and exhibitions happening at the CAC!

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