For this year’s list, we kept our overall ranking numbers but organized everything by category.
Art 50 2022: Chicago’s Visual Vanguard (Introduction)
Art 50 2022: Curators and Dealers
Art 50 2022: Collectors and Philanthropists
Art 50 2022: Directors and Administrators
Plus: Art Leader of the Moment: A Conversation with Monique Brinkman-Hill, Executive Director of South Side Community Art Center
Here are Chicago’s Organizers and Arts Workers.
Conceived as a project space and apartment library focused on Native, Mexican, Caribbean and Central and South American contemporary art and cultural discourse, over the pandemic Chuquimarca shape-shifts in response to its participant’s needs. In the spring of 2020, Chuquimarca founder John Guevara launched Tanda, a six-person program that helps individuals with their research and practice through self-directed and collective learning. In 2022, he began Muña, an art writing program. Looking ahead, Guevara will be experimenting with fundraising models to build the library and sustain its forward-thinking programming.
Mary Jane Crowe Professor in Art and Art History, Northwestern University
Following the publication of her 2019 book, “Art for People’s Sake: Artists and Community in Black Chicago, 1965–1975,” historian Rebecca Zorach has continued her work supporting the South Side Community Art Center. Zorach sits on the board and serves as chair of the Archives and Collections Committee, where she has helped secure grants to preserve artworks in the collection and process the Margaret Burroughs papers in the Center’s archive and stage exhibitions, such as the crucial “EMERGENCE: Intersections at the Center.” Zorach is at work on an exhibition slated for the Terra Foundation’s 2024 Art Design Chicago initiative that will focus on the history of material reuse in Black art in Chicago, and is finishing a manuscript for a book on American ecologies of art, race and space.
CEO, The Conservation Center
Heather Becker took over The Conservation Center in 2003; today it is the largest private conservation facility in North America. In addition to working with paintings and works on paper, the company helps preserve everything from textiles and antique furniture to rare books and sculpture. Becker points to the longevity of her staff—more than half have been with the company for over fifteen years—as a testament to the trust and resiliency of the Center. “It is profoundly inspiring to see the talented work of our conservators bringing treasured items back to life,” she says.
President, Terry Dowd Inc.
For nearly forty-five years, Terry Dowd Inc., with offices in Chicago and Denver, has been the city’s premier art handling company. The company deftly navigated the pandemic, keeping all employees on payroll through successive CDC guideline changes. During that time, it reinstalled the artwork at Midway Airport after its recent construction was completed. Dowd looks forward to building a new facility for the company, with expanded capacity for storage, crating and other services.
Co-Founder/Co-Director, Sixty Inches From Center
Tempestt Hazel is a contemporary renaissance woman. She’s a curator, writer, artist advocate and co-founder of Sixty Inches From Center, an online journal documenting and promoting art, archives and writing of diasporic, queer, indigenous and disability communities in Chicago and the Midwest. Through her work at Sixty, Field Foundation and other cultural organizations and initiatives across the Midwest, Hazel provides support for artists, organizers and cultural workers, aiding the exploration of solidarity economies, cooperative models and values-based practices.
Damon Locks, Sarah Ross and Timmy Châu
Directors, Art and Exhibitions and Managing Director, The Prison + Neighborhood Arts/Education Project
Visual arts and education project PNAP connects artists, scholars and the broader outside world to incarcerated students, primarily at Stateville Prison. Since its inception in 2011, the important work of PNAP staff has largely been done on a volunteer basis, but thanks to a 2021 Mellon Foundation grant, they’ve hired staff and started a Fellows program for people leaving prison to continue their education at Northeastern Illinois University. Recent projects include the realization of “The 51st (Free) State,” at DePaul Art Museum, which seeks to connect the 2.2 million people “incarcerated across the nation through a spatio-political imaginary;” citywide murals; and an art critique group at Hill Prison. Later this year, they will open a gallery and community space in Humboldt Park, to be co-led by Pablo Mendoza, a formerly incarcerated artist.
Kate Bowen, Alden Burke, Stephanie Koch, Adia Sykes and Tiffany Johnson
Lead Organizers and Programs Manager, Chicago Arts Census
The Chicago Arts Census is a collaborative, grass-roots, data-driven effort by and for Chicago area arts workers to expand equity, parity and access to material resources across Chicago’s arts landscape. Created by the people behind ACRE and Annas, the Census is a call to rethink how arts work is defined within public policy. The Census’ collection of data from arts workers will provide the basis for advocacy groups and organizations to generate funding and artist services throughout the area. ACRE will roll out findings from the Census survey over the next year, providing public access through a data visualization tool.
Avery R. Young, Andrew Schachman, Faheem Majeed and Jeremiah Hulsebos-Spofford
Co-Directors, Floating Museum
Since 2014, the Floating Museum has enriched Chicago’s cultural landscape with site-responsive programming that brings art to the people. Their 2021 project “Sustainable Societies for the Future,” a two-part exhibition that took place at Malmö Konstmuseum in Sweden and via a LED truck that traversed Chicago, convened participants to consider art as a catalyst for social change. 2022 saw the opening of “”A Lion for Every House,” which engages the community using works from the institution’s photography collection. In 2023, the collective will unveil a new inflatable monument in collaboration with Kushala Vora: “The Garden,” which “focuses on the role of plants as world makers.” They have also purchased a building in Greater Grand Crossing that will include rehearsal, office, studio and residency space.
Nick Wylie and Ed Marszewski
Managing Director and Director, Public Media Institute
Public Media Institute is a sprawling ecosystem of community-driven projects, including Buddy, a shop for local artist wares in the Chicago Cultural Center; the long-running exhibition space Co-Prosperity, now with a second location in Catskill, New York; the alternative publication Lumpen Magazine (published since 1991), and many other initiatives. PMI provided additional community support during the pandemic, through The Quarantine Times, which commissioned creative content from local artists in 2020 and Community Kitchen, a food-aid project that fed 4,000 each week at its peak. September brings the return of MdW, an artist-run art fair that will convene to convene alternative artist platforms from across the Midwest.
Art Institute of Chicago Workers United
Art Institute of Chicago Workers United, formed earlier this year through AFSCME Council 31, sent shock waves across the global museum world when its campaign to organize one of the nation’s leading art centers as well as one of its leading art schools succeeded. Since then, it has inspired other arts workers in Chicago, most recently being cited as a reason Newberry Library workers are moving toward forming a union. AICWU presents itself as a model of labor organization where both museum and school workers stand in solidarity with one another, in opposition to the hierarchies that plague both academia and the arts. The vote for SAIC’s non-tenure track faculty to join the union is fast approaching, marking the next potential milestone in the union’s efforts.
Hall of Fame
These folks, or the roles they inhabit, are so well-established and foundational to the art world of Chicago that they are always near the top of the list.
* new this year
Founder, Bad at Sports and Chair, Art and Art History, Columbia College Chicago