Last week, it was announced that Carolina Garcia Jayaram, Executive Director of Chicago Artists Coalition (CAC) for nearly four years, is leaving her post at CAC for the position of Chief Executive Officer of United States Artists, one of the nation’s largest grant-making and advocacy organizations supporting performing, visual, media, and literary artists. Establishing herself as a formidable force for change and opportunity in the Chicago art world in such a short time period, Jayaram has transformed CAC from an organization that had seen better days to one that is now flocked to by contemporary artists of all kinds. Checking in before she steps into her new role at United States Artists, Bad at Sports conducted this “Exit Interview” with Jayaram:
Bad at Sports: Carolina, you had notable success founding and leading LegalArt (now Cannonball) in Miami. What convinced you to come to Chicago to take up the Executive Director position at CAC?
Carolina Garcia Jayaram: I’d like to say it was some benevolent altruistic force, but it was actually love. My husband is from here and longed to return, so we did, and it was the best decision I’ve made in a long time. Once I arrived, I worked at the Arts Alliance Illinois, doing arts education policy work, which was truly important work but didn’t bring the creative challenge I was looking for and so I sought out something new and CAC was looking for a new Executive Director.
BaS: What was the state of CAC when you inherited it? And now, how would describe the organization?
CGJ: To say it was chaotic and rudderless is an understatement. There were a few loyal and vital board members keeping the frayed ends together, but really, I came in at a time when a few more months would have meant the total demise of the organization. It was a challenge I found exciting and felt prepared to take on largely because I was ignorant to the state of things. That’s often the best way to go in for someone like me, who likes making order of the chaos. The bones were there, though, meaning a significant history, a dwindling but loyal cohort of members, funders who reengaged very quickly and a larger artist community that was definitely skeptical, to put it mildly, but welcoming once they realized we were in it for them.
BaS: If at all, how have you worked through the organization’s history while developing programming aligned with your own vision?
CGJ: In addressing the history [of CAC], or evolving past it, I found the biggest challenges. The majority of people are averse to change and so my initial push to make broad and sweeping changes was definitely met with resistance. For instance, one of the fist things to go was a printed newspaper that hundreds of artists still subscribed to and relied on for Chicago arts news. I had angry calls for months, but it was time to move on from that. It was a strategy embedded in the belief that our history was about advocacy and advocacy had changed from the early days of CAC. My vision was and remains one aligned with economic prosperity for artists, which is directly linked with artistic and creative freedom. I felt that this approach honored CAC’s history but shifted it in a way to become a lot more relevant for artists working today.
BaS: In your mind, how has CAC best contributed to the growth and sustainability of the arts in Chicago?
CGJ: One of the things I’m most proud of is creating an environment that welcomes partnership. I owe a great deal of our early successes to the partners who took a chance on me and CAC when they knew little or nothing of us, like the Chicago Loop Alliance (our partner in Pop Up Art Loop & Art Loop Open), Groupon, Gensler, The Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events (by giving us Chicago Artists Resource), Pitchfork, Audience Architects, 1871, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Columbia College Chicago, Other People’s Pixels, Creative Capital, and many, many individuals who were instrumental in building BOLT, HATCH, A.B.C., Starving Artist and EDITION Chicago into critical and commercial successes. Each of these endeavors have played a role in helping build a sustainable economic marketplace for Chicago’s creative community, which I hope is my legacy in the early development of CAC’s latest chapter.
BaS: What do you think has been your most important success as executive director?
Convincing hundreds of artists that they are capable of more than they believed possible.
BaS: What aspect(s) of Chicago’s arts community has had the greatest impact on you—both personally and professionally? And what aspect(s) have most impressed you?
Professionally, it has been to work in a city that knows the importance of art and artists in a way largely foreign to me before coming here. The level of awareness about the arts here is unusual, and even those who may know less are still convinced of its importance and are usually looking for ways to know and experience more. Personally, the arts community has embraced my ideas and allowed me to take risks and to be creative, which has been deeply rewarding and stimulating. I definitely haven’t gotten it all right, but I’ve always felt I could count on honest and constructive feedback from the many artists who have been a part of CAC’s growth.
BaS: Let’s wrap up with a look ahead: United States Artists. Tell us about this organization. What excites you most about this new position? And though it may be a bit premature to ask, we still want to know, what are some of your plans for USA?
CGJ: United States Artists is driven by a very simple yet revolutionary premise: to best support artists we must first provide unrestricted funding in order for them to have the space and freedom to create work ([which is] wonderful) and second, we must create an environment where the larger public understands the importance of the artist in the world around them ([which is also] wonderful, but harder to attain). I am excited to grow USA’s presence, to reengage with hundreds of alumni who, I do not exaggerate, are our county’s finest artists across eight disciplines. I plan to take what we do well, with a fellowship program that has to date invested nearly $18 million directly into artists and their work, and do it better, by working with alumni and future fellows to determine how we can make a deeper impact in not only their lives as artists but in their community’s lives, which I believe is a desire many artists have but are seeking tools to do better. But, first, we are going to get the 2014 fellowship underway and by year’s end, have a new class of fellows, which is the most exciting.
United States Artists is indeed a granting powerhouse that, at $50,000 a pop, has funded and led to the success of a number of household names, including Chicagoans like Douglas Garofalo (architecture), Theaster Gates (visual arts), Aleksander Hemon (literature), and Steven James (film), among others. Though the organization grants to artists living and working all over the country, a majority number of grants go to those based in New York and California. As far as we can tell, Jayaram will conduct her work as CEO from Chicago. If that’s the case, the fact that Chicagoans will be better informed about this national funding opportunity and the possibility that they and other Midwestern artists will be better represented is pretty darned exciting.
Congratulations, Ms. Jayaram.
February 10, 2013 · Print This Article
ACRE in Wisconsin. Ox-Bow in Michigan. Bemis in Nebraska. With so much midwestern residency happening, there is no excuse not to apply. Details below. (And for anyone who missed part one, BOLT and PLAND are still accepting applications.)
2013 Application now open, deadline April 15th with $25 fee waved by February 15th
ACRE (Artists’ Cooperative Residency and Exhibitions) is a volunteer-run non-profit based in Chicago devoted to employing various systems of support for emerging artists and to creating a generative community of cultural producers. ACRE investigates and institutes models designed to help artists develop, present, and discuss their practices by providing forums for idea exchange, interdisciplinary collaboration, and experimental projects.
Residency: Steuben, WI
Exhibitions: ACRE Projects / 1913 W 17th St / Chicago, IL 60608
Our admissions panel comprises an impartial jury of established artists, critics and curators from Chicago and elsewhere. Jury members are asked to evaluate work samples and the written portion of the application. Scoring is based on quality of work, potential for growth, and feasibility of project proposed based on the facilities we offer.
Notification of acceptance will be issued in early May.
- 1 session (12 days), $600
- 2 sessions (26 days), $1200
- day rate: $60/day
full info available at http://www.acreresidency.org/
2013 application now open, deadline for Summer MFA & Arts Faculty residencies is April 5th
Ox-Bow offers a wide range of opportunities for artists at all stages in their career. With year-round programs that cater to degree-seeking students, professional artists and those new to the field, Ox-Bow is a protected place where creative processes break-down, reform, and mature.
There are a variety of ways to engage in the program, from being a student, artist in residence, faculty member, visiting artist, or fellowship student.
Ox-Bow one and two-week residencies for Arts Faculty, June 2 – August 17th, 2013
Over the summer, Ox-Bow offers one and two-week residencies for artists who are also faculty members in the arts, in an adjunct or full time capacity. This program is designed to give teaching artists the much needed time to focus on their own work throughout the summer and also to connect to other faculty who are teaching at Ox-Bow.
Artists are selected upon the merit of their work and written statements describing their proposed use of the residency. During their stay, artists are encouraged to present a slide lecture or reading of their work and to participate in the community life at Ox-Bow. Recipients receive a small private studio and room and board. Please note that the classroom studio facilities are not available to artists in residence.
Cost: $225 per week, (includes room and board and studio use), due at the time the residency is awarded.
Deadline: April 5, 2013
Ox-Bow MFA Residency, three week residency, June 2 – August 17th, 2013
Ox-Bow will offer three to five 3-week residencies to MFA candidates from schools around the nation. Students must be currently enrolled in an accredited MFA program or have graduated from an MFA program on or after December 2012 to qualify. Students may apply as individuals or as pairs to live and work on campus on a project of their design. Applicants will receive one studio space, as well as housing for the duration of their stay (if applying as a pair, applicants will share a studio, as well as housing). Access to classroom studios and studio equipment is not guaranteed. Students should submit proposals to create work that is not dependent on studio access.
These three-week residencies are designed for graduate students who may not need the formal instruction provided by Ox-Bow’s traditional class structure.
Only one application is required from the applying group/collaboration. The first person listed on the application will be considered our main contact person.
Cost: $500 per 3-week residency for one artist; $800 for two artists, (includes room and board and studio), due at the time the residency is awarded.
Deadline: April 5, 2013
For full information, visit http://www.ox-bow.org/experience
The Bemis Center
Accepting applications for 3 month residencies featuring $750 monthly stipends, generously sized live/work studios and 24 hour access to facilities. Deadline February 28th, 2013 (!!)
The Bemis Center provides Artists-in-Residence with the gift of time, space and support.
TIME 3 months of uninterrupted, self-directed work time.
SPACE The Bemis Center is housed in two urban warehouses totaling 110,000 square feet. Each artist is provided with a generously sized live/work studio with a private kitchen and bathroom and 24 hour access to facilities including a wood shop, installation spaces, and 10,000 square foot sculpture facility.
SUPPORT $750 monthly stipend.
Applications are being accepted through February 28.
For more information or to apply: http://www.bemiscenter.org/residency/