Ms. Patricia Courson wears many hats. This precocious alum of SAIC now co-runs Lloyd Dobler Gallery with Rachel Adams, writes about art for Flavorpill, is associate director for Bucket Rider Gallery and, just to top it off, she recently became visual art coordinator for Around the Coyote. It is in this new role where the curatorial and managerial skills that she has accrued will be tested. Patricia Courson’s jobs form an interesting cross section of the Chicago arts community. Whereas Lloyd Dobler is emblematic of what is vital about the freedom of the apartment gallery, and Bucket Rider represents the international art circuit, Around the Coyote is an entity without a clear equivalent. What other organization in Chicago assembles such eclectic gatherings of visual art, theater, dance, film, music, video and poetry?
Originally conceived as a way for local artists to exhibit in their home town, the name Around the Coyote refers to its location near the “Coyote Building,” the decades-old nickname for the Flatiron building at Damen and North Avenue. The cornerstone of ATC has traditionally been its annual festival that, at its zenith in the mid-nineties, exhibited close to a thousand artists; it has also maintained a permanent gallery space since 2004.
Around the Coyote has seen a lot of change in the past ten years. Being situated in the heart of the Wicker Park and Bucktown gentrification movement has sparked reflection and expansion of the organization’s mission. Ms. Courson explains, “ATC is moving into a decidedly new territory by stepping up the quality of work shown, all the while maintaining the service to young and emerging artists throughout the city. We are breaking away from untrue stigmas and starting fresh.” The stigmas that Ms. Courson refers to are rumors that “anyone who applies to the festival gets accepted,” which have undermined ATC’s credibility in the past.
\The focus may be shifting away from the neighborhood in other ways as well. The ungainly festival is looking for a more comfortable home, possibly outside of Wicker Park. Ms. Courson again: “ATC festivals have simply grown too big to stay fastened down to one location. They need the clarity of a fresh new venue that can house everything under one roof.” Such a location change would promise to “make the festivals a better experience for participating artists and the public audience.” The gallery, however, is still firmly stationed in the Flatiron Building for the foreseeable future.
Understandably, the shift away from open-call exhibits and into a curated space has frustrated many of the Flatiron Building’s resident artists, but the uniqueness of ATC’s assistance and exhibition opportunities is needed for all Chicago’s emerging talent. Ms. Courson characterizes the issue this way: “They seem to think they are owed the public attention that ATC has the resources to bring,” but that the changes are necessary. “This is a chance to fortify and bring attention to [Around the Coyote] as a respected part of the Chicago art community.” (Dan Gunn)
Around the Coyote is located at 1935 1/2 West North, (773)342-6777.