Long live the art fair

Long live the art fair

('Free Time'/Cody Hudson)

The woman from the Chicago Artists Coalition told me I could store my recently purchased Cody Hudson print in their space and pick it up later, away from the frenzy of the breakfast for the opening of the EDITION Chicago art fair. That probably would have been a better plan since I had to return to my office later that day.

But I am not rich. And when given the chance to purchase a print within my limited budget, I did not hesitate. I purchased #26 in the edition of 100, an early birthday present for myself and symbol of what art collecting means for many: a chance to grow into a practice that might not be your own.

And because it was mine then and now and (hopefully) forever, I wanted to hold it and make it true. It would only exist as a concept, an idea of my love of art, until it was mine.

“No!” I said. And after a long pause, I repeated myself. “No! I’ll hold it now.”

I took it with me right then. Last Friday was seasonably chilly and as I missed bus after bus and train after train, I considered my decision.

What is the state of the Chicago art fair and the Chicago art community? I can only speak from an outsider’s perspective.

Last weekend, Chicago welcomed the EXPO CHICAGO art fair at Navy Pier and two satellite fairs, the above-mentioned EDITION and the Fountain art fair. For a city that once risked floundering under the departure of the local institution Art Chicago, last weekend showed no signs of worry.

I slowly fell into the art community during my senior year of college. It was a moment of learning and a moment of appreciation. While normally surrounded by writers and musicians, I found visual artists to be especially fascinating. This was a world I did not participate in.

I am not an artist. I am not a facilitator or coordinator or curator. I barely exist as an arts writer. Rather, I am a fan, someone who can appreciate aesthetics and grand ideas, who has an enthusiasm for what I see and what an artist wants to say. So I attend art festivals and fairs and museums and galleries to behold the things I can not produce, but that I still love.

Chicago will never be any other city. And perhaps that is a good thing. When it comes to the art community, what others lack, Chicago has in abundance. For one, I have always found it easy to understand it, to find singular visions and projects within it, to keep a part of it. We want you here, they might be saying. You just don’t know it yet.

Chicago is a city of communities and neighborhoods, of cliques, and gangs. We find our own and we stick with them. If you can not find your community here, you are not looking hard enough. And the Chicago art community, for all of its challenges in a city as sprawling as ours, managed to create a moment that spoke to the strength of what is already here and the possibility of what can come.

Britt Julious is the co-host of WBEZ’s Changing Channels, a podcast about the future of television. She also writes about race and culture in and outside of Chicago. Follow Britt’s essays for WBEZ’s Tumblr or on Twitter @britticisms.