A climate for experimentation by Mary Elizabeth DeYoe
By MARY DEYOE
I explored a number of alternative art spaces across the city recently for Chicago Gallery News. Artists, curators, writers, and others passionate and focued within the community introduced me to their homes, storefronts, and co-ops, demonstrating what a vibrant and vital component these spaces are to Chicago's art scene. Wanting to learn more, I began a new series in CGN dedicating one article each issue to an alternative space in Chicago. I don't purport to know about every site yet, but I like to think I could some day.
For this issue, I met up with former MCA Curator Tricia Van Eck to learn how her current project, 6018 North was developing. The space is a 100-year old mansion that will serve as "green, non-profit space for experimental culture, instalation, peformance, and sounds."-MD
The yellow house at 6018 North Kemore in Edgewater sits wedged between two large brick apartment buildings. It has a deep, covered front porch, and large picture windows on the first and second floors. There is no other structure like it on the block, which is lined with four-plus-ones. Currently the house, which had to be gutted after pipes burst over a year ago, is undergoing a deep, green retrofit. Rather than starting from scratch, two teams of student from IIT are redesigning the current structure to be more energy efficient, so it can accomodate the variety of artistic practices, performances, and gatherings that will take place in this multi-functional and collaborative space.
Knowing that Van Eck had already held some events in the space, I was shocked when we walked through the front door. There were no interior walls, just wooden studs and exposed beams; the floor was stripped and uneven. Looking more closely, I saw a long wooden table. It was propped on sawhorses and painted with colorful stripes. The benches along the table were white radiator covers that had star-patterned grills. A few glass bottles and vases with flowers were sitting on a side table, and a large white board covered from edge-to-edge with charts, lists and winding arrows, hung on the wall at the head of the table. These were the remnants of a recent Fluxus film screening and dinner party. Van Eck can seat up to 40 guests at the table, and she has no interest in spreading the group among smaller, seperate tables to make room for more. "It's about everyone being at one table, being a part of one unit, one conversation," she said.
Each of the dinners hosted at 6018 North has had a theme. The guests are asked to consider a certain issue regarding art in Chicago and how to address it. Recently, the conversation focused on responsibility of art writers. The current and familiar debate is whether the city serves as an incubator for talent. Many artists come here to study, but then they leave because the market is stronger in places like New York, Berlin and L.A. The question around the table that evening was whether bringing deliberate attention to Chicago is the responsibility of the art critic. The guests were split in their opinions; the artists seemed to think this was the responsibility of the writers, while the writers saw it the other way around, and believe they should be free to focus on art criticism. Van Eck intends to continue to engage the community in these types of conversations as she considers how 6018 can best address these issues and be an innovative resource for Chicago art.
The various features of 6018 North will include a Fluxus library and a performance space in the basement; a screening room on the third floor, which will also support sound installations; and a garden and living mural (or green wall) in the backyard. The house will also be home for Tricia and her husband, who plan to live on the second floor, and to an artist-in-residence. The annual residency program will begin as early as this May. Each residency will last 5-6 weeks, and in each cycle Van Eck plans to host at least one writer, chef, visual artist, gardener or landscape architect, and curator.
Although construction on the house may not be fully complete for more than a year, the next project and programs at 6018 are well underway. Van Eck is a finalist for a grant from Art Place, and if she receives the grant, funds will go towards the residency program. The diversity of performances, exhibitions, residents and guests was desiged purposefully to create a "clinate for experimentation" both within the space and throughout the wider Chicago community.
If the current momentum behind 6018 North remains, the space will surely be a magnet for talented artists, leaders and entrepreneur from both Chicago and other major cities. Learn more about the project at 6018North.net