Friends of the Arts
1800 W. Cornelia Avenue
Chicago, IL


Press review from ArtCalendar©, May 1997

Market Report; Giving You a Sense of the U.S. and World of Art Markets Chicago
reported by Jennifer (LaCivita) Kimbrough
Permission to reprint from ArtCalendar©, May 1997 issue, Page 4

It is hard to imagine what an out-of-town artist sees and thinks upon a visit to Chicago. The Gold Coast, Water Tower Place, the Magnificent Mile, slick galleries, crime and housing projects probably all somehow define the city to one not acquainted with it.

But to an artist who has never lived anywhere else, it's the many hidden, one-way side streets, old brick buildings and the people who dwell inside them that define the real city. These often bumpy, pot-holed street lead to where the Magnificent Mile and "Downtown" do not. Behold, the alternative space. The best artistic advice for the newcomer would be "get lost" and go far away from the familiar.

Many of the alternative art spaces are professionally run by artists or simply by a person with a passion for art, respect for those who make it, and a large white and available wall for them to exhibit the work.

Art graces the rooms in coffee houses, bookstores, corner bars, night clubs, restaurants and artist studio buildings willing to share their dywall. Exhibiting in these spaces is similar to, sometimes even better than, a gallery. They come complete with contracts, press releases, post cards and opening receptions. Since the alternative spaces are viable, reviews are common and publicity is good. Some places have no commission fee because the artist does all the work, from hanging the show to writing press releases. Whatever or wherever the space, it's necessary and important to investigate. Insurance, contracts, security, reliability of the owner or manager need to be explored.

One prime example of a space operated with expertise is the northwest side's Friends of the Arts (FOTA), a nonprofit arts support group that runs out of the Cornelia Arts Building (1800 W. Cornelia), a former W.W.II airplane factory. It provides a creative, safe haven for non-traditional art. The directors, Richard Lange and Thomas Frerk, are to be heralded as masters of promotion. They work with true professionalism, manifesting deep reverence for art and the artist and the need to educate and enlighten the masses through art.

Sales of work may vary, but what is ultimately important is the exposure and publicity. In an alternative space, it can be profitable because of their multiplistic purpose and a steady stream of customers. Whether it is the bar with happy hour every Friday night, a book signing and lecture at the bookstore or a crowd for a poetry reading and strong coffee, patrons are all witnesses to what hangs on the wall. Art can be exhibited for a weekend, to one month, to over a year. It's all usually negotiable and, of course, depends on the place. There are many possibilities and much room for creative experimentation at these alternative sites.

What constitutes the real Chicago and gives it the strong character for which it is known are these very establishments. They are significantly responsible for giving many artists opportunities that may never have become realities. It is worth diverting one's shoes off the well-worn path to new avenues. When asking for directions while lost in Chicago...request the nearest one-way street.