As part of our new series of virtual tours, we’re visiting some Chicago arts institutions braving the current storm on the cultural landscape.
For 29 years one small but significant place has been a showcase for visionary artwork. (And that is literal – some of the artists claim to have had visions.)
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The art center called Intuit had to close a new show last month, and we got a look at what you’ll see when it one day reopens.
Marc Vitali: Bill Traylor was a self-taught American artist, born into slavery, whose artwork has been compared to Picasso.
Howard Finster was a Baptist minister who painted what he titled “visionary landscapes” – as well as album covers for REM and Talking Heads.
Lee Godie was a homeless Chicagoan who made art on the steps of the Art Institute.
Intuitive artwork like theirs has been labeled “raw” or “primitive” – but like most labels, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all definition.
Intuit, on Milwaukee Avenue in River West, has an inclusive approach to what is most commonly called “outsider art.”
Annaleigh Wetzel, Intuit — The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art: How we define “outsider art” here at Intuit is in essence artists who operate outside of the mainstream art world, Rather than their work being informed by the art establishment, they have a personal vision that they are compelled to create from. They often don’t have access to traditional art-making materials or fancy art supplies, but rather they use what they have at hand.
Vitali: That could mean scrap metal or window-shade canvases. One artist made meticulous drawings on stationary from his home at a state hospital.
Chicago is known as one of the first places in the United States to accept and embrace outsider artists.
That interest was sparked by a 1951 visit to the Arts Club of Chicago by French artist Jean Dubuffet. A receptive audience heard Dubuffet champion what he called “art brut,” meaning “raw art.”
All of the works in this exhibition come from the authoritative collection of Victor Keen.
Intuit has several shows each year, which can include some of the 1,200 works in their permanent collection.
One installation always on view is a window into the world of Henry Darger. Darger was a reclusive Chicago janitor who wrote a 15,000-page illustrated story about an army of girls escaping slavery.
His one-bedroom apartment and studio is recreated here with original furniture and possessions.
Intuit’s doors may be currently closed to the public, but daily visits by staff ensure the care and maintenance of this uncommon collection.
They’re looking toward the future.
Wetzel: I think Intuit, because of our small size — we’re lean but mean — we are in a way uniquely positioned to hopefully come out stronger on the other side of all this.
We’re really excited to welcome guests back into our space when that is safe for everybody, and in the meantime we’ll continue to create more and more content so that folks can engage with us online.
Follow Marc Vitali on Twitter: @MarcVitaliArts
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Art will suffer if online displays are the norm – Asia Times
Almost 15 years ago, a group of artists, filmmakers, curators and critics came together at the Oberhausen Film Festival in western Germany to discuss the introduction of a new technological medium: YouTube.
How would watching film and video online differ from regular venues such as cinemas or the Oberhausen festival itself, which played an important role in European art-house cinema?
Would films be meaningful in the same way – watched alone, in poor resolution, on a computer – rather than on the big screen by a community that had come together to see them?
“They’re like photocopies,” said the curator, Stuart Comer. Comer, now chief curator for media and performance at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, argued that while watching videos on YouTube was not the same as watching 35mm film on the big screen, home viewing served a different function, and there was room for both.
It’s interesting to think back to that debate now. Many of the early qualms around online viewership have since been ironed out. The quality of streaming has gotten better. Museums and artists run dedicated channels, instead of the free-for-all of early YouTube days when historical films were often altered – edited, overlaid, given new soundtracks – and passed off as original.
We now know that audiences will watch a film from start to finish. This had been another fear, that without the social contract of buying a ticket and sitting in a cinema space, spectators would dip in and out, catching glimpses rather than following a story.
In 2020, with the Covid-19 lockdown, we are lucky to have YouTube, Netflix, Vimeo and other streaming and sharing platforms, but we should also be grateful that the platforms have been around long enough to generate material made for online consumption.
In most cases, we are now not watching “photocopies” of films transferred to the small screen, but works made for the small screen in the first instance.
It is unclear whether the traditional art world – the one of paintings, installations and sculpture – is now in a transition similar to that of the film industry a decade ago.
Museums are digitizing whole rooms of paintings; commercial galleries and art fairs are hastily constructing online selling platforms; and Google Arts & Culture, a digitization project reaching back to 2011, is being recommended by schools as a lockdown activity.
Will these be seen as photocopies, a temporary fix until the era of social distancing subsides? Or will art organizations, some of which have been buoyed by a stratospheric rise in online audience figures, continue these platforms once lockdowns end?
The answer won’t be driven by fidelity to the experience of seeing work “in the flesh,” but by economics. Museums and galleries will face significant budget shortfalls when they begin to open up, whether because of a curtailment in public funding, reductions in private donations or months of loss of revenue.
Exhibition commitments will come stacked upon one another as postponed shows are folded in among future programing, while works meant to be lent out to one place might be needed elsewhere or back home (or might just be too expensive to ship).
Online exhibitions will most likely persist for some time to fulfill these logistical needs – and they might well continue afterwards as an inexpensive strand of quantifiable audience engagement.
But we shouldn’t be lured into thinking that online engagement is a consequence-free decision. Like most instances of outsourcing to technology, online exhibitions mean job losses: the technicians, the restorers, the authenticators, the shippers, the insurers, the guides and the guards who enable the public showing of precious objects.
These roles support others: the technician might be an emerging artist, the guide a student, while conservators and guards might support families at home. Artworks might be digitizable for those who simply want at look at them, but not for the people who make their living in the trade. The art world hinges on the buying, selling, preserving and showing of material goods.
The economic impact goes beyond the art world. For years the trump card of the arts, when it was making its case for public support, has been its economic multiplier effect. For every £1 spent on the arts by Arts Council England, the government recoups £5 in taxes, the Arts Council found in 2015.
The “Bilbao effect,” pertaining to the economic transformation wrought on the northern Spanish city of Bilbao after Guggenheim Bilbao was established there, has dominated numerous city development strategies in the decades since – including, arguably, that of Abu Dhabi. And the argument continues to be made by international consultants, who show how visitors head to F&B outlets, gift shops and hotels after viewing museum exhibitions –benefits likewise not likely to be recouped digitally.
What the crowd in Oberhausen was concerned about all those years ago was YouTube’s effect on its community of filmmakers, curators and critics. As museums and galleries move to online exhibitions, they need to understand that they are risking much more than the loss of authenticity of experience.
This article was provided by Syndication Bureau, which holds copyright.
Art school in Penticton forced to vacate historic home during pandemic – CBC.ca
A 60-year-old arts school in B.C.’s Okanagan is scrambling to find a new home after the Penticton school district opted not to renew the lease.
The Okanagan School of the Arts says it’s being booted from the historic Shatford Centre in Penticton, B.C., where it’s rented space for community groups and hosted art, music and theatre classes for the past 10 years.
The school has leased the building from Okanagan Skaha School District 67 for the past decade.
The district has asked the school to clear out by June 30 when the lease ends. Kim Palmer, the school’s executive director, says it faces the “enormous task” of emptying the building within weeks.
The school, she said, is filled with valuable and specialized equipment, including pianos, commercial kitchen appliances and art supplies.
“At the moment, we don’t know where it will go,” she said.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of the school in March, eliminating its rental and programming revenue.
The school leased the century-old building for a dollar a year but was responsible for maintenance, utilities and insurance. When discussing the June lease renewal, the arts school asked the district to cover $80,000 in operating costs and keep the site running for the community.
Palmer said, in response, the district told her the lease would not be renewed and to vacate the building by the end of the month.
She said the province’s emergency order protecting small-business tenants from eviction during the pandemic does not apply to the school, given its yearly $1 lease.
Priority is spending on students, district says
School District 67 chair James Palanio said the district can’t afford to keep the school afloat.
The arts school has spent about $2 million on maintenance over the past 10 years but more is needed and the district can’t afford it, he said.
“We just can’t spend anywhere other than on the kids,” Palanio said on CBC’s Daybreak South.
Palanio said the district is not evicting the arts school. He said it failed to provide insurance information in January when the lease renewal came up. The school only submitted its proposal in late May, he said.
“We have our own deadlines to meet as well,” he said.
The district has no plans to sell the building, Palanio said, and will be eyeing future plans for the site in late fall.
Palmer said the arts school is also looking at other locations.
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