Where Art Works: Artist Communities and Creative Placemaking

Sixteen artists whose studios are located at The Cornelia Arts Building in Roscoe Village will participate in a group exhibition at Eat Paint Studio, December 17, 2021 – January 22, 2022. “Where art works,” alludes to the fact that although an artist’s studio practice is unseen, creative work is an integral part of Chicago’s vibrant neighborhoods and our local economy. An opening reception will take place on Friday, December 17, from – 6-9PM. A preview of the exhibition will be held on Thursday, December 16, from 5-8PM in conjunction with “Shop Late Lincoln”.

The artists on view in “Where Art Works,” include Nelson Armour, Doug Birkenheuer, Sara Boyle, Katherine Drake-Chial, Doug Frohman, Beth Kahmi, Jason Messinger, James Parenti, Madeline Shea, Tiphanie Spencer, Tiffany Stronsky, Kevin Swallow, Sharon Swidler, Kathryn Trumbull Fimreite, Kathy Weaver, and Eric Weinstein. Working in a range of mediums, and at different points in their careers, this group show highlights the importance of supporting working artists through affordable studio space and professional community.

In addition to maintaining their private art practices at The Cornelia Arts Building, each of these artists participates in the larger Chicago community through teaching, public art projects, lectures, coordinating group exhibitions and art experiences, open studio events, and other professional creative practices. Being an artist requires entrepreneurial skills but, unlike operating a small business, commercial activity is not the end goal in the studio. Rather, the artist’s studio is a third place — a space to experiment and discover, to envision the future, and to manifest connections.

According to 2020 data, approximately 70,000 artists live and work in Illinois, contributing to the development of a diverse cultural experience for residents and tourists. These individual artists and groups form a network of tributaries that feed our creative economy, provide jobs, sustain local businesses and make the city a desirable place to live and work. 

The Cornelia Arts Building has provided studio space for working artists to develop their work since 1986. Located in the Roscoe Village neighborhood, the building was built in 1910 as an ice blockhouse manufacturing company. The portion that jets out from the building on the south side were stables – ice was delivered by horse-drawn carriage.

Somewhere between the early 1900’s and the 1970’s, the building housed a clay factory (a major supplier for Lillstreet Studios), manufactured airplane parts, and was a pipe bending operation, before being converted to artist loft spaces in 1986. In 1987, the first Northside neighborhood “art walk”(1) was held with the Cornelia Arts Building at its epicenter. Friends Of The Arts, a not-for-profit arts support group specializing in emerging art and artists, was established and located in the Cornelia Arts Building in 1988.

Since 2010, The Cornelia Arts Building has become renowned for hosting festive, quarterly open houses, providing neighbors a chance to explore working artist studios and to meet artists in an informal atmosphere. They also offer exhibition space for guest artists during these events, allowing emerging artists to expand their audiences and gain professional experience. Visitors can see studio work in progress, learn about the artist’s processes, and connect to their own neighborhood on a deeper level. This creative placemaking has emerged organically through the efforts of a core group of building artists and has made the Cornelia Arts Building a Northside anchor. 

  1. In 2001, the Jane Addams Resource Corporation’s “Neighborhood Tour of Industry” and the “ArtWalk Ravenswood” program developed for Chicago Artists’ Month (now defunct) were more or less merged. The event is now managed by The Greater Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce as the “Ravenswood ArtWalk” each Fall.