I Space (UIUC) and Crown Gallery (Loyola) set dates to close


There is a lot to say, especially about I Space. Claudine Ise did a good job of explaining it when she spoke with Mary Antonakos about it http://badatsports.com/2009/uiucs-i-space-gallery-to-close/ back in late October.

Now it's official, December 31 will be the end.

I'm biased, I really loved I Space., but what's troubling is the continuing issue of the survival of experimental art in Chicago - we currently have no collector base for experimental work, so the commercial model doesn't work, but now we can see that the institutional-support model holds all the cards and can cut and close at whim.

The not-for-profit model has advantages, but funding can be pulled (see also Loyola-supported gallery) with little warning, or in the

case of I Space, because they had support from UIUC, they didn't really have the green light to get fuding from other sources, like a non-affiliated 501c3 could do.

And I'll also add that being a not-for-profit doesn't mean agencies line up to hand you checks either. I spent a year on the board of Refuge, a not-for-profit gallery and we closed because we couldn't get enough grants to stay afloat.

So I'll sign off with a question - when the art isn't sellable - what is the model? What can the public do to encourage institutions to give support?

I'm up for ideas, because this loss really stings.

11/20 is the final shindig for I Space, so let's make it a good one and show some support.


Filed under: Uncategorized

Tags: CrownGallery, ISpace


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  • "we currently have no collector base for experimental work"

    also we don't have any critics, right?

  • Well, collector base suggests a base, a community and .. based on asking around quite a bit, we don't have a strong market. We're doing research on people buying performance art (which can mean documentation) and other types of ephemeral art, and we are really having a hell of a time. We're not done looking, but ...it's not robust. Yes, we have a prominent video collector and I've interviewed a few others, but I know installation artist who just assume that type of work won't sell here.

    So I'm not saying nothing ever sells ever, but I stand by saying we don't have a strong avant-garde collector market. But critics! I can't throw a rock without wacking the head of a critic! I'm trying to be funny, but Chicago has an outstanding academic/scholarly brain trust, we've got U of C and SAIC, and that's our strength, but we don't have the NY or California money. Manhattan is one of the wealthiest spots on the globe and if California was its own country, it would be the 6th wealthiest. We have the North Shore.. but .. that's a different conversation.

    Thanks for commenting, Jason. You keep me on my toes.

  • Sorry to hear about this, but unfortunately it's not shocking. Yes the market isn't as strong as it could be, but in a changing art world I think collector markets should only a piece of the puzzle. At Chicago Art Department we've been developing our model for over five years, and while it's not perfect, I think it offers a different approach that doesn't rely on sales and has ongoing potential opportunities for growth. We try to diversify, bringing in funds from events, grants, member fees, class/workshops, as well as individual/company donations or sponsorships. We also ask our residents to create/lead any programs, allowing for fresh content and partnerships, something that I believe benefits artist, audience, and funder interests. Again I wouldn't say we are perfect, but somehow we've managed to grow for five years, and have just opened up a second space, dedicated to studio practice for our residents. Hopefully sharing our approach helps in some way...in the same way we at CAD continue learn from others experiences.

  • Hi Mike,

    I think these are all good ideas - but to get into specifics, we'd really have to talk about dollar amounts. Little Chicago Art Map, to have one paid, part-time employee, and a handful of expenses that doesn't include rent... it still comes out to $36,000 a year. If I wanted to add a salary for myself, way $30K, then we're looking at over $60,000 a year. Some of these models work fine on a smaller scale, but when an organization needs to bring in $100K in revenue consistently every single year, the rules really change.

    It's like ants. An ant can lift a crumb 300 x's its own weight. But if the ant were 10 feet tall, the physics would kick in and it would never lift anything that much heavier than its own weight.

  • Sorry, I realize that comment doesn't make sense without a concluding sentence.

    The point about the ant is that things can work on a smaller scale, young people, unpaid staff, Pilsen (which is cheaper), factors like that. But we lose people in the art community because the get to the point where they want a home and a family, and they go away. The question is how to make the arts viable for a larger demographic.

  • That's a question that keeps on giving...

  • I think emerging artists have plenty of opportunity to exhibit and experiment with their work and careers here. As they graduate from the many and varied schools, there is no end to what can be shown from the apartment galleries, to artist collectives and individual studio spaces this is, and always has been an incredibly vibrant community. I space opened up just as the artist run spaces like N.A.M.E. and Randolph Street Gallery were nearing the end of their run. With University budgets really getting cut back, it looks like our time is over as well. What will replace us? I'm sure something will. The bigger problem for Chicago, and this may be just because the emerging market is so strong here, but what hurts us is that its really tough for mid-career artists to sustain and continue their work here. Once you get over a certain threshold in terms of your sales, you must go elsewhere to sell and show your work. Many of our more successful artists leave (or they get a great teaching job and can stay here, but sell their work elsewhere)because the collector base won't sustain a richer market.

    The other big problem we share with so many other cities is that we have terrific arts institutions here, but they just don't have the time to cover the whole scene. And so, what happens is only a few artists get the attention they deserve. I think the internet and the recent explosion of great writing, blogging and coverage has helped to bring more attention to those deserving it, but we need to do more. I'll keep working at it, whatever way I can, the more voices, the more we get the word out, the better.

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