Sunday, January 31, 2010

Clueless in Chicago........

24 hours, I feel like I have been on the fast track to my GhD (Gallery hoity-toity Diplomacy).
Up at 4:30 a.m. showered, coffee made, thermos filled, maps at the ready
artist packets tucked under my arm, car headed west by 5:00 a.m.
Butch excited to attend seminars all day at the Navy Pier on sailing.
Me, hit the ground running. I had a list and maps to public transportation.
All the galleries were highlighted in yellow and I would systematically check them off
as I conquered the Chicago gallery scene.

Parked the car by 10:10 a.m., walked to the lake end of Navy Pier, synchronize our watches and wished
each other well.

Walked to other end of the Navy Pier and approached the tourist information desk. Found out
there was a free trolley that would take me to Michigan Ave. Running out the door the
cold Chicago wind hit me full frontal and I thought there must galleries in Miami! Running
to the trolley darting across traffic for what I thought was the trolley but was not I stand and wait.
By the time the trolley got there I was having trouble forming words it was so cold. A short ride up the
hill and jumped off at Michigan Ave, up the stairs and heading west to Superior Ave. Having never
been in the windy city before I walked the wrong way but in a block or so figured this out and
turned around heading south. I had a list of 5 decorative art galleries in hand and had lurked the
websites before I left.

My first stop: Vale Craft Gallery. Happens the gallery assistant is from the Cleveland area so I had
a chatty time discussing Cleveland. We knew some of the same people. He kindly introduced me to
the owner, who happened to be a potter & gardener. (my inside voice is high fiving!) He kindly
took the packet and looked at my book sliding it back over the counter and said with raised eyebrows;
You've mixed baskets with clay? I nodded; Yes. He lowered his eyes. said nice to meet you & turned back to his computer.
End of conversation! I muttered, Thank You, gathered my packets & book and humbly ran out the door.

Onward...... the nice thing about the Superior Ave. Arts District; galleries are literally stacked on top of each other.
Punctuated with a Starbucks or deli. Ran to the next gallery, not on my list but I wasn't going to pass up a chance
to catch the vibe. And so it went for 5 hours.

After the second gallery and sticker shock I realized I was so far out of my league it wasn't funny. We are talking
small town potter goes to the big city. After my expedition into Perimeter Gallery I shoved my resume' packets so
far down in my bag they wouldn't be seeing the light of day until I returned home. Resolved to get as much out of
this trip as possible I systematically went from gallery to gallery. My goal was to over load my senses with the art scene
of Chicago wondering what would bubble to the surface on the 6 hour drive home in the wee hours of the morning.
Doing this over and over, at some point your mind shuts down and that is good. Stop thinking and just drink, no gulp.

During my day I watched a beautiful little Ruth Duckworth sculpture being sold to a collector, a Val Cushing jar
sitting on the floor tucked behind a giant painting, a small Peter Voulkos pot sitting on the floor. In a dusty cabinet
in a forgotten corner a Curtis Benzel porcelain sitting next to a Gordon Andrus teapot ( I have a picture of
the very teapot hanging over my wheel), finally in Perimeter Gallery the biggest collection of Tashiko Takaezu's work I have seen.
I ventured down a spiral stairwell to find two Claude Conover pots sitting in corner surrounded by tacky dusty vaseline
ware and Murino glass lamps, I poked my head up the staircase to inquire if what I was seeing really was Claude Conover and what was the price. Yes they are Claude Conover and I never got the price as the owner was shocked I knew who the artist was and wanted to know how I knew they were Claude Conover. Ha! Score one for the studio potter!
Pots that I know and love were not revered but instead sequestered to the back halls and basements of some of the top
galleries in the country.

By 4 p.m. I was exhauted and thought I would head back to the Navy Pier to see how sailing was going. I wandered in a gallery called Printworks. The last day of a show by Robert Middaugh, never heard of him. I spent 40 minutes looking at his work and became completely captivated. I walked out the door and went back, I couldn't get enough.
I walked out of the gallery buoyant from this seeing this show in a tiny gallery tucked away in Chicago.

The wind hit me smack in the face. How could this be as the wind hit me smack in the face walking south when I started but now I am walking north and it's in my face again! Battled my way north to Michigan Ave. found a Whole Foods where I bought sandwiches, fresh juice and two apples for $20. Found my trolley stop and waited. The trolley passed me twice so I gave up and walked back to Navy Pier. I was a popsicle by the time I got back. Happy to be inside I made my way to end of the Pier, called Butch in a seminar and said I had lunch waiting. We had a picnic sitting on the heaters of the observation deck.
We finished up, he went back into the seminar and I found a Starbucks and went over my maps. At 7 p.m. we decided to head for home.

Driving in the dark for 6 hours I reviewed the day.

Bubbling to the surface first was the Robert Middaugh show. There are those few shows you see that you just know you will remember the rest of your life. This show will remain with me for a very long time.

2. Chicago galleries (at least the ones I attended) were pretty pretentious. But then I guess if you're selling $28.000.00 paintings you can be pretentious.

3. Good gallery owners are worth their weight in gold. They love the artist they represent and work hard to sell and cultivate collectors. I watched two patrons make extremely large purchases while there and I watched those gallery folks work their tails off representing the artists. They also make a pretty penny for that work.

4. I will start applying to ACC shows. I hate shows but I think they might be part of the necessity of doing business at the national level. Not sure I ever want to sell a pot for thousands of dollars.........

All in all it was a very good day! My education grew in leaps and bounds. Feeling like I have enough information to make
decisions about where and how I want to sell my work. In the really big picture........ it's good to be home and wish I could sell pots while having tea at my kitchen table.


  1. lovely post, sandy. sounds like quite a day...i am now going to google robert middaugh. good luck with your of the hardest aspects for the studio potter, in my opinion.

  2. Their loss, Sandy.
    But brava to you for taking this on!

    - Sue

  3. Their loss, Sandy.
    But brava to you for taking this on, especially during a Chicago winter. Brrrrrrrr.