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Art vs. Mediocrity Exhibitions

October is Chicago Artist’s Month

I know that October is a long way away. It’s only June, Summer is just beginning, so why would I want to even think about October? I guess you could call it the Hillary Clinton syndrome. I just can’t let it go. This year will be the 13th October Artist’s Month organized by the city. For the past three I have registered my open studio, held in a public building, in their free listings. This year I was disallowed.

I met all the requirements and got my application in before the deadline. I even received a confirmation e-mail that a confirmation letter would be arriving post-haste. Instead, there appeared another e-mail alerting me to the fact that ArtWalkRavenswood had also registered and that I was covered by their activities. And, perhaps, I should get in touch with them and register through their tour.

“You mean, the tour that hasn’t been announced yet? With the registration form and information that is perpetually coming soon? That ArtWalkRavenswood?”

“Yes, maybe you should go talk to someone – we just can’t list you.”

I explained that I had attempted to talk to and persuade several board members that communicating with the artists about their plans was a priority. Like my dad after me about my homework, I pestered anyone who would listen: “What is the status of the arts tour?”. Each time I got the brush-off, “It will happen. You don’t need to worry about it.”.

It is logical that the city should suggest I register with my neighborhood tour. That this neighborhood tour was lifted to prominence in the city’s eyes because of the work that I and some hard-working board members and volunteers invested – is a bitter irony.

After this phone-call, I was ready to go to the next board meeting and formerly protest the lack of interest the current organization had in the community of working artists whose studio practices are located in Ravenswood Corridor. We are not hobbyists entertaining ourselves with expressive, playful doodling! ArtWalkRavenswood and its directors are accountable to us and the duties and responsibilities that they accepted when they joined the board to sustain a nonprofit mission.

Without a unified presence and voice for advocacy it is all too easy for the artists to disappear from our Ravenswood neighborhood. Development, prosperity, neighborhood diversity – all of the current circumstances that our neighborhood enjoys are due in large part to the existence of small businesses. Artists are small businesses. We have employees, we purchase supplies locally, we sell art in Chicago. We deserve the same respect and attention that any Chamber of Commerce business would receive.

Perhaps honing in on the righteous indignation raging in my head an e-mail from ArtWalkRavenwood arrived that evening. Apparently, it is time to register for the arts tour.

The fee has been raised from$25 to $35, which is still quite reasonable. Distinctly missing from their notice was any mention of art, community, or why we have the arts tour. Never mind a reference to the theme of the 13th annual City of Chicago October Artist’s Month (its “Vote Art!”).

I can accept that future tours might not be what I and my collaborators would have worked to create. I just want to see some evidence of effort – that the board can get it together to work towards a unified goal and see that there is an important, active, professional arts community at stake in Ravenswood.