Call to Arms, an open letter from Paul Klein

June 4, 2007 · Print This Article

Art Protest

The City Council is on the verge of passing an ordinance that is bad for Chicago, bad for its citizens and particularly bad for the art community.

We have proposed an alternative ordinance that will not be considered unless you act.  We are the following groups: Bad at Sports, the Chicago Artists Coalition, Lumpen, Sharkforum, ArtLetter and others to be named soon.

Short Story:

Mayor Daley and the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) have proposed a terrible ordinance to modify the Public Art Program.  The stated reason makes no sense: that the meetings were open to the public was cumbersome and unnecessary in their judgment.  That the previous ordinance existed for 25 years and that the City has an exemplary art collection they deemed irrelevant.

  • It “privatizes” the the selection of public art by eliminating all Open Meetings.
  • It means the DCA does not have to post thorough information on their website about upcoming commissions.
  • It will remove transparency and accessibility from the Public Art program and  art commissions.
  • It eliminates voting, democracy and public recourse.

Unless the art community acts the City Council will approve their proposed ordinanceon the 13th of June.  The best way to prevent this from happening is for artists to

stage a large rally at 5:30 PM Monday, June 11th at the Picasso Sculpture

and a letter writing campaign to make the Mayor and the Aldermen aware of what Chicago artists think and want.

Full Story:

  • Visualize 100’s of Chicago artists rallying around a single cause – Artists’ Rights.
  • Have you ever read about a large group of artists speaking out publicly with one voice?
  • Think about the media coverage.
  • To a large extent the events of the next ten days stand to significantly affect the future of Chicago artists (and Chicago galleries that care about their
    Chicago artists).

Here’s the deal:

In mid-May at the request of the Commissioner of Cultural Affairs (Lois Weisberg), Mayor Daley proposed an ordinance to revamp the Public Art Program. 
This proposed ordinance is bad government, bad for Chicagoans and particularly bad for the Chicago art community and artists.

Shortly after the ordinance sailed through committee (despite us “winning” the discussion) a few of us succeeded in having the measure postponed by the City
Council.

WELL, the issue is coming back up for a City Council vote on June 13th.  We’ve spoken to a number of aldermen.  Most aldermen think: If the artists don’t care, we don’t care.

It is possible to change the system and it is not going to be easy. 

It is time to step up or get stepped on.

As an artist or a member of the art community in Chicago, or elsewhere, if you ever want to able to apply for a commission, or give a damn about your peers
being able to, now is the time to act:

  • Appear at a RALLY FOR ARTISTS’ RIGHTS on the Monday the 11th at 5:30 at the Picasso
    – 2 days before the City Council meets to vote on the 13th.
  • Write letters to the Tribune & Sun Times editorial page.
  • Write a letter to the Mayor
  • Write a letter to your alderman. Speak to your alderman.
  • Speak in favor of Our New (alternative) Ordinance supporting Artist’s Rights
  • Send an email to me or a member of our team telling us what you think. We’ll count them, print them and share them where they’ll hopefully make a difference.
  • Under the pretense of streamlining the selection process, the DCA’s proposed ordinance means the DCA does not have to have “open meetings” to give or get any information to artists about upcoming commissions, nor answer to anyone about selected commissions.
  • They do not have to put information on their website anymore (they’ve been doing a horrible job putting out information so far.)
  • They do not have to allow artists to apply for specific projects.
  • They do not have to respond to the community.
  • They do not have to be responsible for their actions.
  • They do get to keep their inbred selection process whereby they dip into their archaic database, pick whoever they want, sometimes repeatedly, and not have to tell artists why or how they chose or choose.
    If you are going to write a letter, here are some key points.
  • No fair, honest or open consideration of Chicago artists
  • No Open Meetings.
  • No useful listings of commission possibilities
  • No applying for a specific commission
  • No knowing why you weren’t considered
  • Under their proposed new ordinance, the finger-pointing will shift from the DCA to the aldermen because alderman will be asked to have ward forums to discuss art commissions in their ward. This will be an added logistical and financial responsibility for the alderman they may not want.  The aldermen will be responsible to post notice of the forums (many don’t have web sites). They will have to pay for postage out of their own pockets. They will have to host and attend art meetings in their wards. They will have to put up with the potential for dividing their community over art issues. These selfish reasons may be sufficient reason aldermen will defeat this ordinance June 13th – if they are informed.
  • If the aldermen think you care, you will be heard.
  • If the aldermen don’t think you care they will automatically vote with the Mayor and pass this ordinance assuring a closed doors, patronage system where those who are favored will get the most commissions.  It will not be based on quality, or a competent committee considering your work.  Instead of a democracy we’ll have the Department of Cultural Affairs acting like a country club, picking who they want, why they want, without opening up the selection process and broadening the amount of art they can consider.
  • The artists suffer.  The City suffers. The community suffers. The DCA gets a free ride.
  • Think about Chicago’s reputation in the rest of the country.
  • We are already being discussed by National Public Art Administrators
    • We will be a topic of discussion at the National Public Art Conference in Las Vegas.
    • Is this going to look good for Chicago in the rest of the country?
  • How about internationally?
  • How about the Olympics?
    • Every Olympics has a large Cultural Olympics held concurrently.
    • Do you think the Olympic Committee is going to be favorably impressed with this ordinance?
  • You and the Olympics
    • Hidden in the bowels of their ordinance is a distinction between Percent for Art and Public Art. The DCA has succeeded in keeping this totally vague. All Percent for Art (a specific term) is part of Public Art (a general term).  Only the Percent for Art must have public forums.(Percent for Art applies to money spent in City government buildings and land.  But Public Art also includes money for art not for city property yet still administered by DCA – like housing to be constructed for Olympic athletes – which could be billions of dollars.) Can you say cronyism?
    • Well get this: According to their proposed ordinance they only have to have forums (namby-pamby discussions with not binding authority and no vote) with Percent for Art. Okay, but for Public Art they don’t even have to have any forums at all.
  • Who do you think they are trying to take care of?
  • Actions speak louder than words.

Paul KleinDo
you understand why the Mayor doesn’t care about you – the Chicago artist? Or why the Alderman don’t, or the rest of the world for that matter?  Because you haven’t made yourself seen and you haven’t made yourself heard enough.

It is time again to assume responsibility for your career, to take a stance.

Can you visualize the impact just 500 artists showing up at a rally could have globally?

Do you realize the publicity Chicago artists can get?

Do you grasp the impact the discussion of this ordinance will have?

You can either shape your future constructively or get screwed.

It is up to you.
Paul Klein




Claude’s BS Artist Statement of the Week

April 20, 2007 · Print This Article

New York artist, Wangechi Mutu, says:

“My work embodies the questions beneath identity ‘loss’ and crisis; origin and ownership of cultural signifiers become unsettling and dubious terrain. The work describes the beauty and survival capabilities of the human imagination which outlives assaulted cultures, transplantation, exile and shifts in philosophical paradigms.”

-Claude Willey




Episode 13: Lucky 13!

November 26, 2005 · Print This Article

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Reviews, reviews, reviews!!! Tropicalia at the MCA, the non-art art show at Loyola, A bunch of stuff at the Cultural Center and more!

Singing hosts, great music cues, mirth, mayhem, and music. Special guest, writer, critic, and giant of consciousness Joanna Topor mocks “author” Rick Moody’s talk at the MCA and suffers the slings and arrows of my comedic editing. Styx!!! Holy guacamole! Who could ask for anything more?

Museum of Contemporary Art
Tropicalia
Water Tower of Art
Cultural Center Chicago
LUMA or Loyola University Museum of Art

NEXT WEEK:

I have no freaking idea. I think our West Coast correspondent Brian Andrews will be in town to shill for his forthcoming show at 40000. Why am I the only person on this show not in the queue for a show at 40000? Clearly I don’t say enough nice things about Britton Bertran (I love you Britton!).

Links to follow whenever Duncan gets around to it…

Direct download: Bad_at_Sports_Lucky_Episode_13.mp3