ACRE Residency (Artists’ Cooperative Residency & Exhibitions) is planning a move in central Pilsen. Growing out of their 400-square-foot “white cube” in the same neighborhood, they envision the new space, a former funeral home, at 2,200 square feet, as an extension of the Wisconsin program. The new site aims to cement their reach in the Chicago arts community, acting as a complement to the off-site residency space and bridging a new chapter in ACRE’s story.
Already having received an anonymous donation of $50,000 to support the renovation, ACRE has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the remaining $20,000 by June 25 that is needed to create a dream space for ACRE’s community. Some of the incentives include a printed copy of KADABRA Vol. 5, a selection of recipes from the ACRE Kitchen with cover design and images by resident artists; a custom joke by artist Jesse Malmed of Trunk Show; a custom GIF by Thorne Brandt; custom ringtone by sound artist Jeff Kolar; and original work by participating artists, Paul Erschen and Emily Hermant.
“This means a lot of support for additional programming, which will hopefully make the gallery much more lively, much more dynamic and a little more reflective of the residency itself,” says executive director Emily Green.
Since its inception in 2010, ACRE has brought together more than 300 artists across disciplines to cross-pollinate into a regenerative community of cultural producers. Green continues, “[Five years later], [w]e have created something together that reaches far beyond whatever we thought was possible…ACRE has been operating out of my storefront apartment since its inception. That space, known as ACRE Projects, served us well as a small organization just getting started.”
The larger space increases possibilities for a greater variety of programming, open for use by alumni, volunteers and members of the vibrant Pilsen arts community. Some of ACRE’s past partner galleries reside in Pilsen, including Roxaboxen, Cobalt Studio, Antena, Slow, ROOMS, elee.mosynary and Plaines Project.
ACRE’s focus on emerging artists came directly out of the founders’ own experiences in life outside of academia, finding it difficult to connect with a community—an important factor for artists in the early stage of their career. “Incorporating an opportunity to exhibit work alongside the residency was [also] an important part of the original model, feeling that it helped ground the temporary community of the residency program in the every day run of life,” says Green. “The Exhibitions Program further develops the artwork and connections made at the farm. Our hope is to bring more of a reflection of the residency community atmosphere to the city,” she explains.
The group partnered with A Squared Architectural Design to plan the build-out of a self-described ’extensive community arts center.’ A Squared’s design merges pre-existing geometry of the space with the “summer triangle,” ACRE’s signature constellation and logo. The renovation includes static and modular exhibition walls, comprehensive lighting and gallery storage. The design aims to suit a variety of programming, from performances to lectures and screenings, and house the Suzumoto Library, a permanent home for ACRE’s archives and book collection.
Expanding the headquarters is part of a larger initiative coming out of the development of a three-year strategic plan. The gallery is just one of the many elements of a plan to strengthen the organization, which involves improving the staff structure, financial model and commitment to diversity. The ACRE team sees the space as key in stabilizing while continuing to improve. (Whitney Richardson)