Art Lies, Volume 3, October-November 1994

DATELINE: Chicago
Lori Gray

We all know that its tough being an art-
ist today (as if it ever wasn't). The peo-
ple with the big bucks aren't buying like
they did in the eighties and the galleries
are downsizing if not shutting down all
together. And forget that patronage
stuff--that went out centuries ago. So
with a seeming lack of choices, what's an
artist to do?
Modeled after a similar event in Paris,
Chicago's annual "Around the Coyote"
(ATC) was established to accommodate
the struggling artist. What founder Jim
Happy-Delpech began in 1989 as a small
fair with a lot of rebel and underground
art has become the "country's largest art
studio walk". Artists open their doors in
the Bucktown and Wicker Park neigh-
borhoods affording the public a taste of
their city's raw talent and providing un-
represented artists with an opportunity to
get their work out.
This year, nearly 800 artists participated
in ATC compared to numbers closer to
200 in earlier years. This growth, though
encouraging in some respects, has not
been met with unammous applause.
Many resident artists were put off by
registration fees and the ATC administra-
tion's decision to allow anyone--even
those towing a U-Haul trailer filled with
art--to participate. Meanwhile, attempts
were made to prevent ATC from becom-
ing another street fair selling "pretty pic-
tures" and friendship bracelets. A juried
exhibition consisting of 64 artists from
the Midwest, however, met with mixed
feelings. Some members of the jury were
dismayed at the overall quality of the
work while others were angered by the
inclusion of jewelry and clothing. In ret-
rospect, the show was somewhat of a mi-
crocosm of ATC at large-without the
circus like atmosphere. Despite discrep-
ancies in quality, collectors and dealers
alike attend with the hopes of discovering
new talent. Collectors in the Midwest
take a genuine interest in the areas artists;
one finds less of the
keeping-up-with-the-Jones' approach than
on the two coasts.
Though its spirit and intent are well
placed, the energy that ATC generates

seems to evaporate into thin air when the
studio walk comes to an end. In part, this
is due to the fact that many of the par-
ticipating artists pack up their rental
trucks and return home, wherever that is,
when the fair is over. Of course, it's
possible that the resident artists don't
have or make the time to take advantage
of the energy. Some artist-initiated proj-
ects have been organized, but ATC can't
take the credit for their inspiration. At
co-ops like 10 in One, 203, and 1633 and
studio/exhibition spaces like Workhouse
and Beret International, artists are able to
show their work.
On the touchy-feely side. ATC is re-
garded fondly and with respect for the
most part despite its ups and downs. It
engenders community bonding (if only
temporarily) and helps dispel public no-
tions of elitism and lunacy in the arts.
ATC must navigate its future course
carefully, however. The crafty turn that
the fair has taken in recent years has led
to several key people disassociating
themselves from ATC and more are sure
to follow. In spite of their defections,
this group still wants to see ATC suc-
ceed. As one individual put it, "we want
to get back to being more of an art fair
rather than just another street fair."

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Huerta, Benito; Ballou, Chris & Loftus, Kelley. Art Lies, Volume 3, October-November 1994. Houston, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth228036/. Accessed July 31, 2014.