With co-founders Sofia Leiby and Jason Lazarus, I’m thrilled to announce that Chicago Artist Writers has relaunched today, October 1st. Chicago Artist Writers is a platform that asks artists and art workers to write traditional and experimental criticism that serves under-represented arts programming in Chicago. The new website hosts the site’s entire archive from 2012-2015 and is fully searchable by artist, writer or space.  Chicago Artist Writers extends its deepest thanks to the amazing coding of Dan Miller at Useful Art Services.  Dan went above and beyond our expectations and is a valued part of CAW’s continuing life. The occasion of the relaunch is cause for reflection on the goals of Chicago-based art writing driven by artists.

Where do artists here look for relevant conversation? The national art publications occasionally focus on aspects of Chicago, but the extent to which art production in the city actually drives this coverage is debatable. It’s not that there is a vacuum of art writing in Chicago; Newcity Magazine has dutifully covered the scene for years, the impressive Sixty is entering their 7th year, Bad at Sports is still interviewing countless people, Lumpen might exist forever, Chicago Magazine helps out where it can, The SEEN is an impressive newbie and The Visualist maps out citywide events. Also, this list is surely not comprehensive.

So why might Chicago Artist Writers be useful?

  • An artwork’s first and most important reception is local.  Art does little good if it ignores the spaces of its reception. Recently the challenges between local concerns and the international culture of contemporary art have been illustrated in the anti-gentrification protests in Brooklyn and Boyle Heights and the opposition to Kelley Walker’s show at CAM St. Louis.  Our internal-to-Chicago conversation is important and different that a national or international one.
  • Historically, artists have significantly guided the conversation around contemporary art. Chicago Artist Writers is made up of the thoughtful contributions of Chicago artists like you. Initially, this sentiment might come across as trite, echoing an NPR donation drive. But venues for the presentation of complex and articulate ideas about art are few, and CAW is available for your usage. Spill our ink! Display with our pixels!  CAW is against mindless art speak but instead exists to facilitate mindful, critical exchange amongst our community.  Read our manifesto. 
  • Social media has failed to provide a real digital commons. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are now run by algorithms that awkwardly truncate and curate their social networks. The average Facebook user would see about 1500 posts a day, but the algorithm only serves about 100. Social media give the appearance of connection while splitting our experiences apart further. Against this activity, there is value in a publication becoming a go-to-meeting place for long-form, big idea discussions. I hope Chicago Artist Writers can be that place. We’ve abandoned the “comment section” as a dead model. Send us your nuanced responses, and we commit to publish them alongside our other content.

All of these thoughts and observations are in the hope that we can foster a continuing dialog about our work and make Chicago’s culture more vital, more ethical, and more truly innovative.