Chicago artists connect creativity, technology

Katie Park

From paper-making demonstrations at a community garden to paintings based on viral videos, Chicago is crowded with public art projects this month.

Chicago Artists Month, hosted by Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs, will highlight the city’s visual art community with a series of programs throughout Chicago.

The event, which is in its 14th year, will showcase more than 200 programs, including exhibitions, lectures, demonstrations, open studios and other events.

Eva Silverman, the director of collaborative programs at the Department of Cultural Affairs, said the primary goal of CAM is to raise awareness of Chicago’s artistic strengths.

“I’m not sure people are aware of the amount of professionals working in Chicago’s art community,” Silverman said. “This is a chance not only to let people see the art but also to get to know the people behind the art.”

The theme of this year’s event is “Chicago Artists Month 2.0,” which Silverman said is based on interaction between the artist and the audience through technology.

“We’re interested in projects using new media and technology or ones using old media and still being interactive,” she said.

Each year, CAM features a select group of artists whose exhibitions are highlighted. Doug Smithenry, one of this year’s 12 featured artists, will have his work shown in the exhibition “Virtual Rainbow” at Center on Halsted, 3656 North Halsted St., from Oct. 9 to Nov. 15.

Smithenry’s work is composed of paintings based on stills from YouTube videos.

“I’m trying to communicate how the Internet is dissolving common boundaries,” Smithenry said. “I’m … asking questions to the viewer about where you might find yourself on the spectrum of online behavior.”

Although Smithenry’s work features technology directly, other featured artists approach CAM’s theme in different ways. Shayna Cohen’s project, “An Interdisciplinary Urban Farm: Tour and Demo,” is a garden located in the Altgeld Sawyer Corner Farm in Logan Square.

“The garden itself is a work of art,” Cohen said. “The garden and the interactions and the neighbors that come through, they’re all a part of the greater interaction rather than a physical work of art.”

The garden, which is open to the public, contains vegetables, fibers for paper-making and works of installation art.

On Oct. 10, the exhibit will hold a tour and paper-making demo.

“I wanted people who were more than just neighbors to see it,” Cohen said. “While it started here and is concentrated on the immediate community, I think Chicago is about a bigger community.”

Lauren Levato, whose work will be shown in the exhibition “Binary: A Pairing of Opposite States” at St. Paul’s Cultural Center, 2215 West North Ave., Oct. 9 through Nov. 7, said she was interested in seeing the collaboration between artists who do and do not use technology in their work.

“The city likes collaboration,” Levato said. “What happens to a highly classical work when it gets kicked over to a new media artist?”

In the Loop, Scott Ashley’s work will be displayed in a CTA train car as part of the exhibition “Art on Track” on Oct. 10. The public will be able to board the eight cars of the train at the Adams and Wabash El stop to see different artists’ works.

Ashley’s work, an installation piece, will divide the car with cargo netting to segregate the people inside.

“Public transportation brings all walks of life together…. It’s human nature to make snap judgments about people,” Ashley said. “By exaggerating the idea of separation between people … I hope to create a dialogue about how this happens too often.”Ashley said he was honored to be a CAM featured artist.

“I think this is a really great program that brings awareness to all the amazing artists working and living in Chicago,” he said. “In a city like Chicago, there’s so much going on, it really takes a group like Chicago Artists Month to organize and present this to the general population.”

Silverman said CAM is a good opportunity for the public to get involved with Chicago’s art community.

“The best thing about it, especially for students, is that most of the events are free,” Silverman said. “There’s no reason not to go.”

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