BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
Carpenter Street was a sight to behold recently as a parade of some of Chicago’s chicest art lovers, led by a local jazz band, marched to nearby Venue One. Leave it to Caroline Older to prove, yet again, that the Chicago Artists Coalition knows how to shine the spotlight on emerging artists and create a firecracker of a party.
The elegant CAC executive director and art historian makes clear that the organization exists at a special crossroads where art and enterprise meet. In addition to groundbreaking exhibitions at their studios in the West Loop, they provide professional development, helping to boost economic skills.
“In addition to our residency programs for mid-career artists, where we provide space and time for creativity, we are open to all artists who want the business skills they might not have received in art school. Our benefit used to be called ‘Starving Artists,’ but that is definitely not the image we want to give. We want our artists to live, work, and thrive.”
Now named Work in Progress, this year’s benefit dazzled at every turn. Guests were greeted at Venue One by an entry splashed with colorful projections of running water created by a former HATCH resident, Snow Yunxue Fu. Caroline described some of the artistic activities at both sites:
“Immediately upon entering Work in Progress, guests were immersed in the captivating environments created by CAC’s artist residents. At the VIP reception held at our CAC gallery, BOLT resident Ginger Krebs—who had donned a white lab coat—served guests mysterious appetizers, who were asked to set their assumptions aside and describe the unexpected tastes.
“Venue One was filled with work by our artists. Not even the bathrooms were left untouched. HATCH alums Angela Davis Fegan and Brett Swinney covered the walls in letterpress posters and encouraged viewers to write their own messages on the walls.”
Although Caroline’s PhD focused on 19th century American Art—and looks like she might have stepped out of a John Singer Sargent painting herself—she is a fierce advocate for emerging artists. Not only does CAC offer two residency programs where a juried team choses the recipients, it also offers its classes in business planning, including tax preparation, to over 500 artists. To the joy of gallery visitors, new exhibitions open every three weeks.
“Chicago is a great city for artists to receive community, professional, and peer support. We have many fine schools, and more and more artists are choosing to stay and work here. Artists are making our neighborhoods vibrant, using their imagination.
“Our residents really push themselves and take their work further using persistence and determination. We have gallery owners who often come to our exhibitions, and we are so pleased and proud when they begin to show at these galleries.”
Ginny Van Alyea, editor of Chicago Gallery News, has said of Caroline:
“The Chicago Artists Coalition has such a long rich history of supporting artists in Chicago. Caroline has rapidly brought the group up to date, keeping pace with the ever-changing nature of the art community and its evolving needs.
“Artists need to be supported in so many ways, and Caroline and her team have anticipated new programs ad opportunities that benefit artists and also appeal to new and potential collectors and benefactors.”
Suzette Bulley, a former BOLT residency recipient and artist on display that evening, chaired the benefit with Jay Owen. Lisa Cavanaugh chairs the CAC board.
Daniel Boczarski (VIP reception)
Sean Su (Venue One)