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Hard at Work in 2018: CAC Makes an Impact by Changing

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Cackey

By GINNY VAN ALYEA

For the Chicago Artists Coalition, life on the other side of 40 has been busier than ever. As CAC prepares to open another edition of The ANNUAL this week, they've also been busy with a major relocation this year as well as undertaking their first capital campaign.

Over 40 years ago, CAC began as a small group of artists advocating for rights, support, and visibility in the city’s cultural landscape and economy. CAC was helped to inspire the formation of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs, the development of Chicago Artists Month, and the passing of the Percent for Art Ordinance (a City law that requires that 1.33% of new construction or renovation budgets of public buildings be allocated to a public art fund dedicated to the commission, purchase, and maintenance of public art in Chicago.) 

Today, CAC is still focused on the needs of artists, but its programming has expanded and evolved. In 2011 they opened their West Loop space on Fulton Market and had space to launch much-needed artist residencies and professional development programs. CAC was the first to offer a residency with a curatorial component (HATCH Projects) and is still one of the only residency programs that offer onsite studio space and a guarantee of a solo exhibition to its 10 BOLT residents. Since then, 60 BOLT artists have had solo shows, 288 HATCH artists have participated in group shows, 2,950 artists have participated in professional development programs, and 24 curators have further developed their curatorial and exhibition making skills. 

As the Fulton Market neighborhood went from an edgy meatpacking center west of downtown to a trendy (and expensive) corporate center, the needs of CAC's artists and the larger artistic community changed as well. In response CAC decided to launch MAKING SPACE, its first capital campaign to raise $500,000 to directly support the nonprofit's ability to build a fully ADA accessible building in a new part of town, create a dedicated education space for professional development programs, remove fees for artists in CAC's BOLT and HATCH Residency Programs, and to establish a board designated cash reserve fund to increase the long term sustainability of the organization.

"CAC is the beating heart of the emerging art scene in Chicago. The lifeblood of artists, writers, and curators who have come through its programs courses through the city, creating a vibrant art town that I believe is one of the finest in the world to produce, see, and create a conversation around art," says Erik Peterson, HATCH and BOLT alum, Manager of Family Program and Student Engagement, Smart Museum at the University of Chicago.

In early June, a lively party to unveil CAC's new space in the Kinzie Corridor took place in an unconventional (and unfinished) space - the CAC's future home at 2130 W. Fulton St. The 'under-construction' Work in Progress theme, which also honored veteran gallerist Rhona Hoffman, inspired many party-goers to, of course creatively, don orange attire as well as accessorize with construction tape. Despite the lack of a red (or orange) carpet, the event raised over $130,000 to support its year-round exhibitions, residencies, resources for artists, and its new dedicated education space. CAC Board Chair Emeritus and EXPO CHICAGO President and Director Tony Karman said, "I am extremely proud to be a part of an organization that fosters and supports a new generation of artists, arts professionals, and collectors, and one that contributes greatly to Chicago's arts and culture community."

Also at the event CAC announced the 2018 MAKER Grantees: Cecil McDonald, Jr., Emilio Rojas, Yvette Mayorga. The MAKER Grant Program is an award opportunity for three Chicago-based contemporary visual artists who demonstrate a commitment to a socially conscious, progressive and sustainable artist practice and career development. MAKER Grant Program’s unrestricted awards of $5,000 (Coney Family Fund Award) and two at $3,000 (OtherPeoplesPixels Award) are intended to recognize exceptional emerging or established artists working in Chicago, and support the advancement of their artistic careers.

This fall, just in time for The ANNUAL (An Exhibition of New Chicago Art) CAC's home is at last not so under-contruction, and it's ready to welcome visitors to an open house and a behind-the-scenes look at new artist studios.

This year's exhibition: Mixtapes for the Next Millennium, is curated by Jordan Martins and features work (all for sale!) by Marzena Abrahamik, Claire Ashley, ASMA (Matias Armendaris and Hanya Belia), Dan Devening, Marianne Fairbanks, Deborah Handler, Cameron Harvey, Daniel Hojnacki, Cathy Hsiao, Cody Hudson, Gina Hunt, Jessica Labatte, Rodrigo Lara, Damon Locks, Marissa Chris Zain Neuman, John Opera, Kaveri Raina, Kellie Romany Soo Shin / Sonnenzimmer (Nadine Nakanishi and Nick Butcher), and Brittney Leeanne Williams. 

Mixtapes brings together a wide variety of studio practices and backgrounds into proximity with one another to encourage surprising synchronicities or points of overlap between them. The exhibition operates with two notions of the term “mixtape” in mind: 1) an informal compilation of songs that reflect different backgrounds and trans-genre jumps, and 2) the hip-hop use of the term to refer to more raw conjunctions of artists that allow for playful, experimental collaborations or tangents sprouting out of an artist’s more formal output. The freedom and spontaneity of the “mixtape” is embraced here in what kind of work is shown and how it is displayed, eschewing polite spacing between works on white walls for playful molecular combinations that explore how the works of different artists can more directly speak to one another.

The yearly sales exhibition celebrates cutting-edge Chicago-based artists, and the mission of the unique show is to create an accessible forum for collectors to discover affordable new work and engage directly with its creators. A public opening reception takes place Friday, September 21, 5-8pm, and The ANNUAL Breakfast happens during EXPO Art Week on Friday, September 28, 9-11am (an RSVP is required). 

Beyond the CAC headquarters, the group is also participating again in EXPO CHICAGO at Navy Pier, with an exhibition of work by Benjamin Larose (BOLT Resident 2017-2018). Larose was selected by Anastasia Karpova Tinari, Director of Rhona Hoffman Gallery and an artist talk will take place Sept. 30 2:30–3pm in CAC's booth (#174) 

CAC staff has been working hard for well over a year to share a new physical and programatic vision of CAC with the artistic community as well as the general public, and over these past few months they have successfully laid significant groundwork for the group for years to come. The group continues to build its popular Chartwell Collectors Circle program, offering exclusive tours of private collections around the city as well as other art-networking events. CAC also launched the second year of its partnership with Chicago's Spudnik Press, “The New Printmakers Collection: A Collaboration between Spudnik Prints Cooperative and the Chicago Artists Coalition.” The program is designed to offer collectors a portfolio of prints by three artists on the rise. The artists invited to participate are new to printmaking, and all are former residents of CAC’s BOLT or HATCH programs. This year’s artists include Benjamin Larose (BOLT 2017-18 and EXPO 2018 CAC exhibitor), Caroline Liu (HATCH 2017-18), and Roni Packer (BOLT 2017-18). Prints are available at presale prices individually until 9/25 and as a suite until 9/26, and prices start at $175. 

No longer a work in progress but a foundational cultural center in the city, CAC keeps things moving and never stops supporting the arts from all sides by championing artistic careers, actively promoting professional advanacement, and enthusiastically engaging the public in the enjoyment of art collecting and support of the arts in general.