City venues turned galleries

By Meghan Keyes

Alongside the Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan Ave., and the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago Ave., 10 venues in downtown Chicago are featuring some 200 pieces from local artists in a new art competition.

From Oct. 15–28, two rounds of voting will take place, allowing gallery visitors to submit their choices via text message for the prize winners.

First place receives $25,000, second $15,000 and third $10,000. The first round of voting began on Oct. 15 and continues through Oct. 21, after which the top 10 finalists will be announced and voting will be limited to those 10.

“We wanted to fold it into other art initiatives that we have, which include the 30-foot eyeball [“EYE”] on State Street this summer, as well as Pop-Up Art Loop, which is a program where we activate vacant storefronts with art,” said Ty Tabing, executive director of Chicago Loop Alliance.

The CLA aims to strengthen The Loop as a destination in Chicago, for both tourists and locals, according to its mission statement.

All of the artists are from the Chicagoland area, according to Tabing. There were more than 750 submissions narrowed down to the 200 to be voted on.

“We want to introduce people to some of these newer venues that are part of the event that includes Block 37 … and also drive foot traffic into these other iconic venues that are a part of downtown,” Tabing said. “A lot of these spaces are really being transformed as part of Art Loop Open, and we want to give people a reason to get into these spaces.”

Among the 10 venues are Block 37, 108 N. State St.; Macy’s, 111 N. State St.; the Merchandise Mart, 222 Merchandise Mart Plaza, Chicago French Market/MetraMarket, 117 N. Clinton St.; and six hotels.

Other sponsors created their own prizes, including theWit’s prize for the “most intelligent or humorous piece, something that identifies our brand,” said Mark Shouger, general manager of theWit, a boutique hotel, 201 N. State St. “As soon as we found out about the open, we … instantly wanted to participate to showcase unique local artists and the Loop.”

The lobby of theWit features nine pieces. A proposal of which artists and pieces to be shown was submitted to the venue and subsequently approved.

“It’s more exposure and definition for what the Loop is about,” Shouger said. “I’d like for people to know there’s always activity and something going on in

the Loop, which is true—this isn’t the first project the Loop Alliance has worked on … there’s always an excitement and energy with something going on in the Loop.”

Another venue showcasing art, the MetraMarket and Chicago French Market, will feature eight artists, live entertainment and guest speaker Michael Canady, a chocolatier.

“It has broad cross generational appeal and helps energize the downtown area,” said Michael Tobin, senior vice president of U.S. Equities Realty and the developer of MetraMarket, through his press office. “It will help bring people to the Loop who perhaps have not been coming on a regular basis, and it will add variety to the experience for those who are coming each day.”

One of the main goals was echoed by the venues and the CLA: To expose people to art where art usually would not be.

“There are 500,000 people in the Loop every day, and we’re hoping some of those office workers, theatergoers, students and others will get involved in this event and will be exposed to art they otherwise would not be exposed to,” Tabing said. “Secondly, we’re hoping art is elevated as a discussion. We found during the Tony Tassett run with the eyeball this summer, a lot of people were talking about art in a way we were pleased by and [that was] somewhat unexpected.”