Friday, September 27, 2013

Frequently Asked Questions

"Art is Business"

Toolkit- 2010

Three Entrée Restaurant by Niana Liu. Photo by Jessica Watson

Here are some questions that people have asked us so that they could start their own storefront program.

If you’re a city entity
If you’re a property owner
If you’re an artist
How did you recruit property owners to participate in the program and approximately how many individual property owners are you working with?

Our goal was to have 26 storefront installations in vacant storefronts in four different neighborhoods. We worked with an economic development nonprofit organizations in each neighborhood which had pre-existing and deep connections with local merchants and property owners.
It was still difficult to get property owners to participate for several reasons.
Some property managers we approached thought it was a great idea but the owners, many of whom didn’t live in the neighborhood or even city, declined.
Some property owners thought it was a great idea until they had to sign the contract. A few property owners dropped out because we asked them to carry general liability insurance.
Even though we offered to clean up properties in return for their willingness to use the space, property owners didn’t jump at the opportunity.
We ended up expanding our initial concept and included under-utilized storefronts and businesses where the display windows were not utilized. We also included the creation of two exterior murals running along the north and south side of our busiest commercial corridor to add additional impact to the Art in Storefronts visual element. That proved to be a very successful decision.
In the end, one property owner provided five windows along a key commercial corridor.

Are the property owners receiving any compensation for their loan of vacant space?
The property owners receive several benefits for providing use of their storefront but they were not paid to participate. We cleaned their space prior to installation and left the space cleaner than how we received it. Property owners noted a decrease in graffiti on the properties in which artists painted the exterior. And increased attention led to the rental of two properties.

How did you handle liability issues?
We required the property owner to carry general liability insurance. Our project managers, Triple Base, also named the City and the individual artists as additionally insured. The City used its own self insured policy to cover the value of the art if it was damaged or stolen from the storefront. The art insurance was valued at $500, the honorarium paid to participating artists, even though the work had greater monetary value. For example, the cost of replacing video equipment would exceed $500. The artists were advised to carry their own liability insurance and additional art insurance.

How much did the extra insurance cost?
The cost of naming additionally insured is minimal. Property owners and the project management team found that each insurance agent dealt with it differently. In some instances, it cost nothing extra. In other instances, it cost between $25 and $100.

How did you recruit artists?
Artists seemed hungry for a program like this and we received almost 200 applications for only 26 slots.
We issued a press release in conjunction with the Mayor’s office to announce the project and posted guidelines online to coincide with the media announcement. We then put the word out through our agency’s various e-Newsletters with a lot of traffic coming from our Gallery Program, Community Art and Education Program, and our Cultural Equity Grants Program. Triple Base also reached out to their extensive roster of artists.
Some feedback we received from the Mission District was that the artists who knew about the program application were those already involved with the Arts Commission. For our Chinatown program, we will send out a press release (to both English and Chinese language press) when the application is posted and we will hold an information session in Chinatown to answer questions about the program and talk about how to make a competitive proposal.

What kind of art was selected and is it viewed solely from the street?
Our priority was to select artists who lived or worked in the neighborhood and whose proposals were to create new work that celebrated the surrounding community. The strongest submissions were ones that employed inventive media or full scale installations and engaged people in an innovative and dynamic way.
In order to maximize the viewership and minimize liability issues, the installations were only to be seen from the street.

How often do you plan to change out exhibits/artwork? Do you have your schedule already set for the duration of the pilot program?
Since this was a pilot program, we did not plan to install future work in the space. Some property owners have made arrangements with the artists to keep the installations in the space longer than the extent of our program.
Some artists created programming that corresponded with their installation by holding an art opening at their nearby studio the same night as the launch.

What was your budget?
The entire project was created for $55,000 which covered project management, design and printing of marketing collateral, web design, artist stipends ($500 each), cleaning fees to prepare the windows for installation, and minimal installation and de-installation expenses. The project budget does not include City staff time.

Do you have samples of your contracts?
Yes. Here is a link to a sample artist agreement (Word, 38 K) and a link to a sample property owner agreement (Word, 33 K)

How do I find an artist or artist collective?
Look around at local flyers and marketing materials to find artists who may live or work in your neighborhood. Check out art websites such as Open Studios/Art Span, SFAC or GFTA, Bayview Artists Shipyard, Fecal Face. Go to local galleries and artist work spaces and inquire.

What is the minimum the property owner should provide?
The property owner should provide a clean, accessible storefront with electricity and a secure door with a lock. The property owner should also provide general liability insurance and a set of keys to allow the artist to enter the space as necessary to install their art work. It is also helpful if the artists can store supplies in the storefront until the installation is complete.

Should the property owner select the specific art?
Many artists will want to install work they already have completed and want a place to display it. If an artist wants to create an original work or installation to be placed in the window, then the property owner should be provided with a sketch of the proposal.

Who pays for what?
The property owner should cover the cost of the window and site clean up and utilities. The artist should cover the cost of creating the art and installation, unless the property owner wants to help pay for some of these expenses. No matter how much the property owner agrees to pay to support the project, the artwork belongs to the artist.

How long doe the artwork stay in the window?
The work should stay up as long as it is agreed upon and written into the contract.

What if the artist doesn’t want to remove the art?
The artwork should be removed on the date stated in the contract.

What if the property owner wants the art to stay in longer?
The property owner should discuss this as an option with the artist and if both parties agree to extend the exhibition time, change the dates in the contract.

What should be included in a letter of agreement between an artist and a property owner?
All agreements should be put into writing and signed by both parties. This includes installation and removal dates, when the property will be cleaned and ready for installation, and when the aritst can pick up keys to the property; contact information for all parties and participants; insurance coverage, and fees.

IF YOU’RE AN ARTIST:How do I find a property owner to work with?
Walk around your neighborhood and find the vacant store fronts that provide contact information for leasing or renting. In some instances it may be a property management company. Be sure you have the exact address.
You can also do a search in public records at your local tax collectors office but storefronts with signage indicate a property owner interested in using the space. Be persistent once you make contact. Provide documentation of Art in Storefronts’ success. Let them know you’re easy to work with and have their interests in mind.
If you live or work in a neighborhood you may also know an under-utilized window, which could work as well, like an insurance or accounting office.

How do you establish the value of your art work for insurance purposes?
The best way to establish a set value of your artwork is to list out all your materials and hours of labor. Be sure to take ample photos of the work for your own record.

What have you found to be successful to light the art installations at night?
There is a huge benefit to lighting the storefronts so that the installations are visible at night. For several of the Chinatown sites, artists used simple spot lighting. Clamp lights with hoods were the most cost effective, easy to install, and efficient in lighting. The lights can also be placed on the floor to light upwards where needed.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Featured Artist Catherine Jones

"Art is Business"

In August I met this fantastic artist from Canada while staying at the Edge Water Beach Apartments in Chicago. Walking into her condo, she had a life size portrait of Queen Elizabeth, she is best known for her staging the capture of Fort Halifax Citadel. In 2014 she will be seeking citizenship in the US, and then we can talk more about her international love affair with staging

In 2004, the entire series was unveiled in the Senate of Canada. Fort Catherine  est. 23rd day of June, anno Domini, 2006.
Prior to 2006, the Halifax Citadel, est. 1749, boasted of having never been invaded. This flagrant challenge, coupled with the prohibitive costs of 21st century fort construction, led to an inevitable conclusion:
"Why bother to build your own fort when you can follow tradition and take someone else's."
Directly following the report of the noon-gun the Union Jack was lowered, and for the first time in 257 years another flag, the flag of New Catatonia, was flown in its stead. Desperate to avoid another Iraq or Viet Nam the occupation was prudently short lived. Validation was secured when all of the pages from the guest book were removed. Regardless, the Citadel can no longer legitimately claim to have never been invaded, let alone occupied.

"Where the sun is always over the yardarm." 


Catherine Jones
A series of twenty-one life size oil on linen portraits of World War Two veterans. The Canadian, German and British men are depicted without identification or military insignia allowing the humanity in their venerable faces to transcend the geopolitics of war. Remarkably, although once mortal enemies, these men have sat down to raise a glass of cheer together.
The series was initially exhibited in Ortona, Italy the scene of the vicious battle fought over Christmas 1943 which was also the site of the legendary Dinner of Reconciliation in 1998.
In 2004, the entire series was unveiled in the Senate of Canada.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Jamin in Logan Square-PopUp Culture Coach

"Art is Business"

Patron's jamming at the market --

One night I was at the Farmers Night Market, in Logan Square, Susan Fox, gave me one of the vertical fabrics, to create my own prayer flag. I was asked to write, draw, print, painted, sew, dye, and collage a message about goodwill and community. I was given the option of involving my family, and friends – there was no limit to the number of flags I was to paint.

Whether one word or an intricate design your flag will blow and be witnessed by many.
We were asked to return the flags by October 10th. They will be part of a Chicago Artists Month installation at Chicago Green Technology Center in East Garfield Park.

For information on where to mail/drop completed flags,,

  A prayer flag is a colorful rectangular found along mountain ridges in the Himalayas.

Darchor  (vertical) prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength and wisdom. The flags do not carry prayers up to the gods, a common misconception, but spread these messages on the wind to the world.
 Darchor are raised by communities and often found along walkways or paths as a colorful reminder of goodwill.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Gretchen Hasse Featured Artist

"Art is Business"
“I wrote stories before I ever started to draw, and since then my work has been narrative. Currently, I create stories with writing, video, sculpture, photography, and drawing alone or in combination. My inspiration includes travel journals, videos. I produce for social justice groups and life lessons that take a really long time to learn."

Gretchen is currently a key holder at the B13 Gallery in Rogers Park, she was recently gallery sitting during the Glenwood Arts Festival in Rogers Park, where she and I caught up on project we are both doing. We are both members of Borderbend Arts Collective, and
often run into each other during AnySquare open studio, in Logan Square. I first met her at a forth of July party, where she introduced herself and we have been run in and out of art circles together. In 2014 we will be working together on a multi-media project, or installation we have not planned yet, but said yes to it, what ever it maybe.

 Common Ground on Damen/Devon
Gretchen frequently incorporates recycled materials into her two dimensional work, and I is beginning to draw on her  own consideration catalog of older work for ideas and elements in multimedia.
Adjunct Instructor Chicago Area Schools where she taught video production/post production, traditional animation and comic book design at Chicago schools and educational programs, including: • The School of the Art Institute of Chicago• Columbia College, Chicago, • University of Illinois / Chicago Alternative School Network• Chicago Humanities Festival• Chicago Filmmakers,• International Academy of Design and Technology I• SOAR/DCFS After School Program,• Facets Cinematheque, • After School Matters,• Digital Boot Camp.

Excerpt from Gretchen's Blog can be found at
I’m using a lot of recycled material these days. So imagine my delight (actually, you can see it right above) when I found this great packing box in the alley dumpster near my house. Bonus, I can use the top and the bottom for two separate pieces.

One thing about recycled materials is knowing how to prep them so they’re sellable, but not so over-prepped that they lose their trashy charm. With this box, one obvious thing was to deal with the dangerous nails. They wouldn’t come out without ruining the top of the box, so I just bent them back. I’ll probably cover the bent nails with something else when I’m finished with the painting.
I live in a three story house (a co-op) with ten other people. We have gallons of leftover paint, in all colors, inhabiting our basement storage room. So I am set on recycled paint as well. The background for the painting on the front of this is going to be the same color as our front sitting room.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Bronzeville Art District Trolley Tour

"Art is Business"

Last month I caught the CTA Red Line to the 43rd Street Stop, to begin my gallery tour at Faie's Art Gallery, which to my dismay was closed, the Cottage Grove location.  
The only African art gallery on the South Side of Chicago they specialize in traditional African art she also carries African Fine Art.
I didn't get the memo, nor read the posting that Faie has moved to 1005 E. 43rd Street.  
Thinking about what to do next, I hopped the RTA to #3 King Dr. to 35th/ and MLK Drive, and walked a block over to
Pearlie Taylor was the featured artist on the  third floor, I just loved the direction her new work is presented. Amongst the other fantastic artists on display at the gallery, I especially love Pearlie's art.
Gallery Guichard. The eight-year-old gallery displays a variety of Afro-centric artwork. To get more Chicagoans to take a look, the gallery's proprietor Andre Guichard conceived the Bronzeville Trolley Tour.
The trolley tour combines  six organizations in Bronzeville, Hyde Park and Kenwood opening their spaces and their current exhibits. It gives the rider the opportunity to take a glance at the wonderful culture that the South Side offers. Riders board a Chicago trolley to be transported between several galleries on the Near South Side. It hits the big ones including the DuSable Museum of African American History,  Little Black Pearl Art and Design Center and the Hyde Park Art Center,  Faie African Art Gallery, Blac Gallery,  South Side Community Art Center, and the St. Thomas Ephicopal Church, who exhibits African Artist from the Diaspora.

The tour lasts just three hours, so visitors spend only a short time at each venue. The trolley ride, as well as admission to each of the galleries, is all free during the Bronzeville Trolley Tour.

Faie African Art

Finally I was able to get on to the Trolley, for the first time in years. I have always wanted to visit Bronzeville, and take the Trolley tour, but there was always another exhibit opening happening with the Phantom Gallery that didn't allow me the time to break away.

I finished the tour at Blanc Art Gallery where James Britt Jr. was exhibiting.
I think some times when artists make a special effort to send out a thank you to patrons that follow their careers, it makes one appreciate them more. I really wanted to catch his closing, because he made a me feel like he really cared about sharing his work with me.  So this is his note.

Hello Everyone,

Thank you for the well wishes and congratulations regarding my exhibition, and I appreciated seeing those of you who were able to make it to the opening. 

Blanc Gallery will be open today from 6pm - 9pm for the Bronzeville Art Trolley Tour.  I will be there, so if you are available feel free to stop by.

The artist talk with Romi Crawford - Visual & Critical Studies Professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago is still scheduled for September 7th at 2pm.

Many of you have reached out to me to catch up, but with my new position and the show I haven't had sufficient time to connect, however after things die down I will be in contact.

Thanks for your patience and support!

James aka Semaj L'rae

Inline image 2
Visual artist James Britt uses various forms of media to create satirical allegories. Through these visual expressions, Britt seeks to cultivate a space where personal and collective conversations occur about the social phenomena represented in his work.  
The subjects of these stories range from public figures to pop icons, professional athletes and politicians. However his alter ego Semaj L'rae remains ever-present in each narrative, representative of our need for validation and relevancy within a system governed by subjectivity. 

The exhibition is curated by Eugene Maltez and will be on display at Blanc Gallery, a community based art space, working to re-inspire a Culture of Conversation in historic Bronzeville. Gallery hours are Saturdays from 1 pm - 3 pm and by appointment. Call 773.952.4394 for more information or visit

Newest Group to the tour is the Radcliffe & Elliott Hunter International Art Gallery

My next stop was to the Hunter International Art Gallery, which is new to the neighborhood, I was most impressed with the facility, the featured artist was from Ghana, and all work in their collection are from countries in Africa, Haiti, Jamaica.
History of the St. Thomas Episcopal Church and the Radcliffe Hunter parish House.
In 1962, the congregation suffered a shattering loss. The edifice was completely destroyed by fire. An old mansion which had been used as a funeral home, located at 3800 South Michigan Avenue was purchased. The funeral home had a chapel and with few alterations was converted to a rather attractive place of worship. A rectory and undercroft with a kitchen and dining facilities were also made possible. This is the building we wanted to renovate and refurbish to use as Parish House and Community Center. Because of escalating costs during the building of the Church, we were compelled to cut back and modify our original plans.

As our then church Historian, Mrs. Helen White wrote, “The area as it is developing now serves many ethnic groups as well as having in its boundaries Illinois Institute of Technology, Mercy and Michael Reese Research Medical Centers, experimental housing developments; south Commons, Prairie Shores, Lake Meadows and Lawless Gardens. These Housing Developments are the model for new Inner-City integrated living, and can provide a resource for community-church activities. In addition to these areas we would also serve the world’s largest Public housing facilities. Robert Taylor Homes, Wentworth Garden, State Way Gardens, Dearborn Homes, Wells-Darrow Dwelling and others.”

Through the years we have witnessed the fall of all of the Public Housing facilities, which had evolved into “segregated ghettos”, However, urban renewal graced our church community with new developments that are diverse and affordable town houses, single family dwellings, apartments, condo’s and refurbished park areas and with available land that will enhance our neighborhoods even more.
Currently the Hunter house has  on-going activities held at the Parish. It is a meeting place for several civic and social organizations, The Renaissance Collaborative computer classes, church board and committee meetings, art gallery, and scheduled public events. There are also administrative offices for the Rector Church Administrator and the Treasurer.

The St. Thomas Episcopal Church is located at 3800 s. Michigan Ave, Chicago Illinois, Rev Dr. Fulton L. Porter III, and Rector VI and Dean of the South Deanery.

Little Black Pearl Art and Design Center, 1060 E. 47th Street

Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 S. Cornell
DuSable Museum of African American History, 740 East 56th
Faie,  4317 S. Cottage Grove Ave.
South Side Community Art Center,   3831 South Michigan Ave, Chicago