Chicago Artist Writers is a platform for art writing written by and for contemporary artists and their audience. Through traditional and experimental methods of criticism, CAW addresses the visual modes of production in Chicago — with the ultimate aim of reflecting and interrogating the interconnected aspects of cultural engagement within the community.

We hold a cumulative proposition within our mission: through the unification of its writers, who are not simply ‘artists’ but are often also cultural maintenance workers; through the emphasis on under-represented artists and artists-run spaces that have long held an unsung space; along with programmatic efforts and educational outreach that serve as an impetus for dialogue, CAW aims to address both the polemics of our time and the social stratification of the art world.

Six years ago, when Jason Lazarus and Sofia Leiby started Chicago Artist Writers, the impetus was clear: create an articulate dialogue that represented the vibrant aspects of the city’s artist-run and DIY spaces that Chicago was known for. The publication maintains the necessity of building an active and engaging cultural ecology that expands DIY practice and asks questions of the cultural institutions that dominate the landscape. We believe that thoughtful criticism is vital in perpetuating the Chicago art community, and should reflect the many forms of exhibition space. Furthermore, a publication that solely discusses artist-run spaces isolates them discursively and limits the scope of their potential influence. It would be more challenging for DIY and institutional alike to be considered in proximity. Thus, we are proposing an expansion of CAW’s mission to broaden our scope of what it means to be an artist, a writer, and an artwork within Chicago.

But this expansion of mission will not eliminate CAW’s emphasis on vital discourse. CAW is a resource for artist’s dialogue but also editorially prioritizes writing that addresses practices and spaces that are lesser known, relevant to Chicago, relevant to contemporary art dialogues and avant-garde expanded practices, have a critical point of view, address recent events and are timely. Editorial decisions are a good faith effort to balance the above priorities within our limited resources. CAW does not publish propaganda or see itself as an outlet for an artist’s or art space’s self-promotion efforts. 

Like any living thing, the Chicago art community is an ecology; like any system, questions need to be asked and answered. By fostering the diverse discourses between artists, art-workers, artist-run spaces, and institutions alike, CAW examines the many forms of contemporary practice through thoughtful engagement.