There’s a lot to say about art in Chicago. So why not hear from those who create it? We asked seven local artists, "What’s your favorite part about Chicago’s art scene? How does this city inspire you?"
Here are their answers.
Martin Bernstein “The artist is a respected and serious element of Chicago’s cultural scene. And that is something to be valued. On the nights that my building and others have their openings, people from all walks come out in droves to support the artists, regardless of weather or distance."
"Once involved in the artistic process, inspiration comes from the security one finds within. Being that Chicago will support the artist who finds their true voice and the community allows that individual voice to be heard, it’s a perfect environment where one can nurture one’s unique expression without overriding all-consuming notions of what a piece of art is supposed to be or look like. It is that freedom that leads to inspiration.”
James T. Green “Everyone is willing to help and invite you in. There's an unwavering honesty and realness within the community—those that are more than Chicago artists, but artists committed to Chicago. Being part of a community that has each other’s back and works hard amid the setbacks without a sense of entitlement inspires me daily.”
James Jankowiak “My favorite part’s the great artists who stick it out here and stay. Wherever we lag behind L.A. or New York as far as the ‘blue chip’ art world is concerned, we make up for it by putting stock into thoughtful art. There seems to be less market manipulation. Museum caliber artists will still pop up in an apartment show around here, and artists support each other. Despite our reputation as just a breeding ground for great artists, many actually stay. They might make their money in other cities around the world, but they are loyal to Chicago."
"I was born here, and my earliest memories of Chicago are rooted in the Back of the Yards. While living there, I also spent summers staying with a family friend in Hyde Park. In the '80s, Chicago went through tremendous social change and I was raised to be conscious of it. Basically, I became who I am through my interaction with my city throughout my entire life, and I’ve taken the good and the bad in equal doses, but I wouldn’t trade my experiences with anyone else. These days, if I need an escape, my first choice is the Field Museum.”
Amara Betty Martin “Everyone is interconnected and so many people are willing to collaborate for community efforts. Another one of the things I really love about Chicago is how rich it is in culture and how hard Latino and African American communities work to preserve and push forward their culture despite being mostly left out of mainstream media. Many artists do this by not only creating work and promoting themselves commercially but also by teaching, organizing, and using their talents to unite community through transformative arts practices."
"This inspires me hustle everyday to continue to create and support independent avenues for expression for new and emerging artists and community workers of color in Chicago.”
InJung Oh “Chicago is a lovely and affordable city full of creative energy. There’s a large population of talented emerging and established artists that bring so much creativity and culture to the city. There are so many opportunities for to view art, exhibit work, and become involved in different artist communities, such as the Zhou B Art Center, MANA Contemporary and ACRE Residency. There’s no city I’d rather be in as a young artist seeking cultural diversity and opportunities for my career.”
Robin Rios “My favorite part about Chicago’s art scene is its diversity and its almost curated demographics of artists’ studios, galleries and art centers. I have to be honest—I’m not inspired by Chicago itself. Instead, I find that if it were not for the true artist natives, there would be no inspiration for me.”
Allen Vandever “It used to be the Chicago underground art scene spaces like Buddy’s Space, Heaven and Texas Ballroom. The kings of that time have grown up and become mainstream. Co-Prosperity and a toned down Heaven are the only real remnants of that time."
"Now, what I like about the Chicago art scene is its massive size and diversity. My favorite gallery for openings is Linda Warren’s. The art isn’t always my favorite but it’s always shown well and there’s always something I like. My favorite art center is Zhou B. They have great shows and a great variety of artist studios. The Silver Room is my favorite store/gallery. They’ve been keeping it real for a long time. My favorite coffee shop for art is Filter. It’s the people that make it so special. There are so many characters; some are so friendly they embrace you and welcome you while others act all superior and better than you. This makes for a very interesting experience."
"I am proud to call myself a Chicago artist and will never get bored of its art scene.”