Can you tell us a little bit about your background as an artist, curator and/or resident of Chicago?
Sure. I did my undergraduate work at Cornell University where I studied Art History and Archaeology and minored in Visual Studies. After graduating, I worked as the Exhibitions Assistant at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell before moving to Chicago to pursue my Master’s degree in Modern Art History, Theory, and Criticism from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). Currently, I am the Director of Monique Meloche Gallery, where I have worked for over six years. I also curate an exhibition program at the Belgian-inspired restaurant Leopold in West Town and am the Managing Director of Gallery Weekend Chicago.
What excites you the most about running a gallery?
Working with the artists and being able to introduce their work to the community. Each artist that we work with has a different voice, a different conceptual project that I am specifically interested in and proud to promote. We change shows every 6-8 weeks and I enjoy that constant change/stimulation.
How did you get your start in the Chicago art world?
I met Monique Meloche, the owner of the gallery, while I was at SAIC. After a semester of school work, I was missing the working world and wanted to insert myself into Chicago's contemporary art world to augment my education and build my Chicago-based network. So, I set up "informational" meetings with a few art world people that I admired and it turned out that Monique was looking for help at the same time.
Why did you choose Wicker Park for Monique Meloche?
The gallery opened on Fulton Market in the West Loop in 2001 and moved to Peoria Street in the West Loop in 2004. By 2009, when we moved to Wicker Park, our program had grown quite a bit. About 70% of our clients are not from Chicago, but when they do visit, they'll make the trip to see us anywhere, so being outside the West Loop contemporary art gallery district doesn't really matter. Plus, Monique and I both live south of the gallery in the Ukrainian Village, within walking distance to the gallery. We love the community around Division Street. We've found great support from the small local businesses as well as the Chamber of Commerce. We've very happy with our new location, which we were able to build out to our specs with the help of Dirk Denision Associates.
How does your space engage with the culture of this area?
Being on the corner of Division and Leavitt (2154 W. Division) with floor to ceiling windows makes us very noticeable. Plus, our "on the wall" window project is lit and visible from the street 24/7. Being near a bus stop, a high school, and a hospital also brings a number of new people into that gallery on a daily basis. While the majority of our clients aren't from the neighborhood, we welcome visitors and are free and open to the public Tues-Sat, 11am-6pm. Check our website for news about upcoming opening receptions, tours, and artist talks.
What interests you about today’s art scene in Chicago?
I'm always inspired by the DIY culture in Chicago. Whether it's apartment galleries, pop-up shows, or performance art, there is a lot of 'can do' attitude. Lots of this energy has to do with the city's great art schools. We've got a ton of smart artists and arts administrators teaching a strong crop of students. These kids get great educations and are hungry to make it so they start writing, curating, and showing where ever they can. I try to make it to these events and spaces as much as possible, and I know other curators do to. It's a great way to keep your finger on the pulse.
On The Wall at Monique Meloche
Feb 4 - May 12, 2012
Kerry James Marshall
Black Night Falling: Black holes and constellations, 2012
Vinyl and screen prints on iridescent cellophane mounted to Plexiglas
Installation view at Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago
Photography by James Prinz
Copyright 2012. Interview by Clover Morell, Administrative Assistant at Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce.