Gay artists organize
By Paul Varnell
Copyright by The Chicago Free Press
December 20, 2006
Nearly 30 artists braved cool, drizzly weather to attend an organizational meeting of a Chicago gay artists group Dec. 12 at Tweet, 5024 N. Sheridan, nearly filling the small restaurant.
The artists were of all types—oil painters, watercolorists, pen and pencil artists, photographers and sculptors. There were also a brace of gallery owners and one playwright who said he hoped the group would be open to people in other arts, pointing out that plays often use artists as scenic designers.
Most of the artists seemed not to know one another. Co-founder Dan Zagotta, who facilitated the meeting, took time to give everyone a chance to state their name, the type of art they did and if they had had public exhibitions anywhere. A few of the artists brought along images of their work on iPods and shared them with people who asked about them after the meeting.
As an organizational meeting, some of the time was spent discussing the name, the scope of membership and the degree of institutional structure that might be required. Zagotta said he favored working toward a 501c3 non-profit organization, although he acknowledged that status had legal and economic complexities. Several of the artists, however, said that they would prefer a less formal structure on the order of a network for information-sharing and socializing.
The issue was left unresolved, perhaps to be taken up by a coordinating committee Zagotta said he wants to form.
A few of the artists said they had had public displays of their work at a gallery or friendly retail business, but many of the younger artists expressed frustration at not being able to find suitable display opportunities and said they hoped the group could provide ideas on how to go about finding exhibition opportunities. In response to questions, several also indicated a need for basic information, such as writing and sending out press releases.
Regarding display opportunities, Zagotta said officials at the Center on Halsted had expressed interest in promoting local gay artists in some way. In a later telephone interview, Chris Taylor, director of the Center’s community and cultural programs, and himself an artist, said he would be delighted to talk to the group about those possibilities.
Other activities members suggested for the group included inviting speakers from the arts community, supportively attending exhibitions of member artists, working with existing artist groups to promote members’ work and working toward a group show for members.
The next meeting is to be devoted primarily to giving artists an opportunity to display their art to one another, either “live” or on slides or digital display devices. The date in January will be announced by email to people who signed up and in the press.