Art's Enclave, Stumbling on a Creative Melting Pot by Sam Weller
"New City" August 6, 1998, Chicago
The rain patters upon the black tar rook of the Cornelia Arts Building. The cacophony of the retreating El bombards the two-story brick building at the end of a residential street in Roscoe Village. To the side of the front entrance, a bearded artist saws wooden planks to the chunky beat of Tom Waits. The glow of a welder's torch sparks out from the window of a metal shop.
Joann Schoeb, a metalsmith, calls the cavernous 1800 West Cornelia building "a true artist's community." On any given day, sculptors hobnob with set designers and painters commiserate with photographers. They critique each other's work over grilled sweet corn, picnicking and creating.
The building, once an old icehouse, the a ceramic factory, now hosts the artists who regularly open their doors for exhibits and once-a-month weekend sales. A postcard display, entitled "Wish You Were Here," begins outside studio No. 108. Artists' postcards line the walls. The show, host by Friends Of The Arts, is still asking for submissions. German phrases and loopy scrawling crowds the back of one postmarked card. Another finds a little boy, circa 1955, sitting playfully in a toy car in front of Wrigley Field - a true Eisenhower-era Kodak Moment.
Farther down the hallway, a dog strolls nonchalantly, tongue lolling, oblivious to the cavalcade of creators and art-enthusiasts parading by. Many of the building's artists will display their wares at the Bucktown Arts Festival later this month and, for now, they set
by Sam Weller "New City" January 28, 1999, Chicago
Richard Lange and Thom Frerk, the Directors of Friends of the Arts, have a well-kept little secret that ain't gonna be a hush-hush private pleasure for much longer.
Located in the humble, old industrial space of the Cornelia Arts Building in Roscoe Villiage, this former WWII airplane parts plant rests right under the electric crackle of the elavated Brown line. Inside, Lange and Frerk afford fledling artists the chance to hit the runway like a P-51 Mustang ready to fly for the very first time.
Kicking off their 11th anniversary members show, Friends of the Arts or "FOTA" as they prefer to be called have culled forty-eight works from as many members from their not-for-profit organization. Anchored into exposed brick are watercolors and oils, photgraphs and acylics. Pedestaled about are a smattering of sculptures all hinting at the future of Windy City art. Lange and Frerk, propritors of the Cornelia-housed Circa and Kunstwerk galleries respectively, are on a mission.
"We like to give new artists the opportunity to show their work," says Lange. "These are people that are established as artists but they haven't shown a lot. We give them that chance." Along with the gallery space, the Friends Of The Arts operate an impressiv web site at www.fota.com that gives further exposure to artist's portfolios The 11th members show proves to be an eclectic melange. From the visually over-powering work of Tor Dettwiler, to the rich warmth offered by a floral abstract by painter Steve Woodlard, the FOTA anniversary exhibition has energy, attitude and a delightfully pschitzophrenic style. Sandra Berger's oil painting, "Walking on Water," is a testament to a deceseased friend, conveying the uplifting message of hope not always a trendy topic amongst the marose art-fart community. But bucking the trends is what Richard Lange and Thom Frerk are all about. Their 11-year-blowout skipped the champagne wishes and cavier dreams of Franklin Street gallery openings and opted for a couple liters of coca-cola and a visit by the FOTA mascot, a gentle dog named Jo-Jo. their creative focus on that.