Dear Chicago: Secure space for artists to live and work

A sculptor asks Chicago to help artists stay.

January 31, 2011

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This October the Museum of Contemporary Art celebrates the 10th anniversary of its 12x12 series. The monthly show features up-and-coming Chicago artists, most of whom have never before exhibited in a museum.

While planning the next batch of shows, Chief Curator Michael Darling noticed a disturbing trend: As he surveyed the one hundred artists who had shown work in the series, he realized that between 20 and 30 percent of them no longer live in Chicago. “I’ve noticed a general pattern of brain drain of the city’s best and brightest artists,” says Darling. “It’s worrisome.”
 
There are many reasons artists choose to leave Chicago or leave the profession, but among them is real estate. Many artists say they can’t secure the kind of space they need to work, at a price they can afford.
 
The city of Chicago has tried stepping in. Among other things, it’s created special zoning designations for artists who want to live and work in the same space. Still, there are restrictions, so many artists choose to live and work below the legal radar in large commercial or industrial spaces.
 
This has been the case for Conrad Freiburg, a sculptor who studied at the Art Institute and stayed in Chicago after graduation. In the last several years he has lived and worked in a succession of spaces all over town, each of which he lost or was forced to leave.
 
In this installment of Dear Chicago Freiburg argues why his situation is an economic hazard the city should fix.
 

Dear Chicago is a project of WBEZ’s Partnership Program. Conrad Freiburg was nominated for the series by the Hyde Park Art Center, where he is an artist-in-residence. 

Music Button: Robert Miles, "Deep End", from the CD Thirteen, (Salt records)