Staying Power | Letters | Chicago Reader

Staying Power 

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To the editor:

Is the Reader trying to reinforce the notion of Chicago as a "second city" in the art world? I've noticed a disturbing trend in front-page articles (in the Culture Club section) on the Chicago visual-arts scene. There has been an unbalanced focus on galleries closing and galleries and artists moving to New York City. I'm noting the article on Tough Gallery [February 26], an earlier article on Wesley Kimler [January 22], and some months back an article reporting on the possible move of Ten in One [June 12]. I realize that the closing of galleries and the moving of galleries and artists to NYC is a fact of life that warrants our attention, but why not also focus some attention on the arts institutions, critics, galleries, and artists that are staying in Chicago and investing in the community?

Perhaps more artists would stick around Chicago if they heard good reasons to stay. It's noteworthy that in the article on Tough Gallery, the main reason owner Richard Kelley cited for its closing was his lack of time ("I...haven't been doing a tremendous job of running the gallery, which isn't fair to the artists"). But the Reader chose to emphasize his comment on the Chicago gallery scene as being "pretty abysmal." This was reinforced by a comment from Ten in One's owner Joel Leib: "The more demanding the art you sell, the more you need to be in New York to do business." I suppose we must all resign ourselves to living in a cultural backwater or else follow Mr. Leib to New York.

But then again, does art necessarily have to be conceptual to be demanding, and do you really have to mimic the tastes of the New York scene to be avant-garde? Chicago has a distinctive artistic personality, independent of the whims of the New York art world. I think it's time to investigate who in the visual arts is staying in Chicago and give voice to their reasons why.

Cindy Loehr

An artist living in Chicago

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