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Creativity in the Workplace Offers Students, Loop Community the chance to Experience Contemporary Art

For every artist at SAIC who wishes to show work, there’s a place to do so. Free and accessible spaces on-campus abound, from solo shows at LG Space to student-curated shows at G2. But for those who want to show their work outside of the acronym-filled SAIC spaces, the Off-Campus Exhibitions program is your best bet. Also termed “Creativity in the Workplace,” the program’s goal is to share contemporary art with our neighbors in the Loop, outside of a traditional gallery setting.

Jeanne Long, Associate Director of Special Exhibitions in the Department of Exhibitions and Events, oversees the program. Long works with a student curator to create a learning environment both for people who work in the Loop and for students, some of whom are showing their work for the first time outside of a school setting. Student work from SAIC is in high demand. Over the years, the School has received requests from corporations, non-profit organizations, and even from Barack Obama’s office in Washington to show student artwork in their offices. The School accepts submissions from students year-round. Long and her student curator then “curate” student work that matches the needs of the space and the feel of the “client,” with the artwork typically on view for about six months. Students receive an honorarium in exchange for the loan of their artwork, and a reception held at the exhibition offers both students and nine-to-fivers a chance to discuss
contemporary art in an informal setting.

Stephen Winters, a 2007 graduate of the BFA Painting/Drawing program, exhibited his work at Slayton Search Partners and at the Chicago Housing Authority during his senior year. “It is a unique way for student artists to move artwork out of the classroom/studio into the public domain. I continue to find that the benefits do not end after graduation, as I am still making connections and showing work through the efforts of the off-campus exhibitions program long after graduation.”

Currently, student work is on view at the Chicago Housing Authority’s new offices at Van Buren and Wabash. At the opening reception, CHA president Sharon Gist Gilliam emphasized how important an interesting visual environment is for employees, saying, “We don’t typically get a budget for decoration or artwork, so this is a wonderful opportunity to know our neighbors and have great artwork in our offices.” Drury Brennan, a recent graduate who received his BFA in photography, has his work hanging in Barack Obama’s Senate office in Washington, D.C., and group shows are on view at Slayton Search Partners in the Loop and Argo Consulting, in River North.

Fame and fortune aside, it is also good practice for artists to have deadlines, and to see their work in different contexts, and among different types of work. Ben Cowan is also a painter who graduated from SAIC with his BFA in 2006. At Slayton Search Partners, he exhibited some paintings he had made during a study trip to Tuscany. Of the Off-campus Exhibition Program, he said, “It was one of my first experiences showing to a group of non-art school folk. I liked talking to people who had lived with my work and listening to what they had to say about it. I was able to sell a few things and even make a couple of good connections.”

In addition to exhibition opportunities for students earning their BFA and MFA degrees, the program also offers experience for student workers in fields such as arts administration and art history who want to learn the ins and outs of installation and exhibition practice. Students working at Betty Rymer Gallery have the chance to help Long with framing decisions, installation, and the minutiae of hanging a group show. All currently-enrolled students working in all different types of media are encouraged to apply. Applications for upcoming off-campus exhibitions are available in the Betty Rymer Gallery and on the Portal, under the “Activities” tab, or by emailing Jeanne Long at jlong@saic.edu.

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