It’s not your imagination: Chicago is exploding with art

SHARE It’s not your imagination: Chicago is exploding with art

We knew it all along, but finally a University of Chicago study affirms that Chicago is a city bursting with creatives.That’s because the city’s labor force, as compared to other, similar cities, over-indexes in terms of artists. The study, Measuring Chicago’s Artistically Creative Economy, takes a look at how those in the field – from folks such as street painter wunderkind Hebru Brantley to creative writers such as “Divergent‘s” Veronica Roth – impact the local economy. And, if larger minds can agree on a way to measure and harness said art and culture, it could very well be added to the equation that measures the nation’s gross domestic product.

Here’s an interesting set of points from the study:

An estimated 63,008 artists work in Chicago. Designers represent the largest share of the artist workforce in Chicago, at 36.3 percent.


Among Chicago artists, writers/authors and architects are most highly concentrated compared to the U.S. as a whole. Chicago also has higher concentrations of designers, musicians, photographers, actors, and dancers compared to the national baseline, but fell below the nation in its concentration fine artists, art directors, and animators.

Why does this matter? The study dovetails nicely with a number of city-sponsored public art events that span the summer and will expand everyone’s horizons. Brantley, who two years ago sold a piece to Jay-Z for $20,000 and is now showing in Beverly Hills, California, will be showcasing an exhibit called “Parade Day Rain” at the Chicago Cultural Center starting June 14, 2014. Not that Brantley’s paintings are singled out in the university’s study, but with smaller wall pieces that easily sell for at least $4,000, fervor for artists such as Brantley could stir an economic pot.

It’s all part of a larger discussion being held by the National Endowment of the Arts and the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, and others, who are trying to figure out how to measure how arts and culture contribute to the country’s gross domestic product.

In other words: culture is a measurable export.

While the big brains harangue over the definition of art economy, you can help move things along by visiting a growing number of modern exhibits. For the designer community, the CHGO DSGN: Recent Object and Graphic Design is a good bet. It opens May 31 and runs through November 2 also in the Chicago Cultural Center, in the Exhibit Hall, 4th Floor North.

It’s a major exhibition of “recent object and graphic design by 100+ of the city’s leading designers,” according to the city. It’s also curated by Rick Valicenti, the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award, with displays designed by Tim Parsons, Associate Professor of Designed Objects at the School of the Art Institute.

– Adrienne Samuels Gibbs

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