Address: 1138 W Randolph Street, Chicago, IL 60607
Open Hours: Thursday-Sunday 1-6PM (regular hours)
Thursday-Saturday 1-6PM (summer hours)
How is the project operated?
Alderman Exhibitions is a commercial exhibition space. This was a very important decision for us, as one of our primary goals is to support artists while building economic as well as aesthetic value in the work and artists that we believe in.
How long has it been in existence?
The gallery was founded in January 2011.
What was your motivation?
I have been deeply committed to exhibition making for some time and have always dreamed of running a gallery. I had been working on a PhD program where I was focusing on the architecture of exhibition spaces and the ways in which conventions of display effect the nature of experiences with artwork. While I am committed to academics, it was becoming increasingly more important for me to be able to practice and experiment with the ideas I was writing about. The opportunity arose at the end of 2010. I was turning 30 and it seemed like a very appropriate time to make it happen, so Garry and I celebrated the opening of the gallery and our birthdays on the same night.
I have worked in some incredible places alongside strong leaders (such as Lorelei Stewart at Gallery 400 and Sarah Herda at the Graham Foundation, where I am still employed as the Program Coordinator). It has been in very fulfilling experience to help support each of their visions, because I’ve seen firsthand how important it is for a program to have an informed, yet subjective point of view. Now that I rarely make physical artworks anymore, running Alderman Exhibitions has been an important opportunity for me experiment with ideas on a scale where I consider everything from curatorial, to administrative work, to client relationships and programming to be my creative practice.
Number of organizers/responsible persons of the project.
Two—I do the majority of curatorial and administrative work, while my husband Garry provides essential assistance with installation, construction, gallery hours and client meetings. We greatly appreciate the help of our seasonal interns.
How are programs funded?
Who is responsible for the programming?
I am (Ellen Hartwell Alderman).
Number and average duration of exhibitions/events per year.
We average 6-7 shows per year, most at around 6 weeks in duration. We do events and programs for each exhibition that we plan along with the artists. Additionally we do one or two art fairs per year.
What kind of events are usually organized?
For each show we host an opening reception and often a closing reception. Apart from those staples, programming for each show is flexible based on the subject matter and interests of the artists. This said, we have hosted quite a few reading discussions where readings are selected in consultation with the artist and are discussed in the gallery space surrounded by the work. These sessions have been very valuable to sparking meaningful, yet unconventional conversations about the work. We have also hosted artist talks, performances, dérives, dinners, etc.
How is your programming determined?
In consultation with artists.
Do you accept proposals/submissions?
Yes, although we are currently booked through the end of 2013.
What is your artistic/curatorial approach?
I try not to get distracted by secondary concerns and trust my intuition. While we didn’t set out to show any particular kind of work, our focus has mainly been on photography and painting, along with some fibers and sculpture. As I mentioned above, I think that it is very important that the gallery programming comes from a very personal place. I do my best to look carefully at what I am attracted to and then to articulate why I think a particular body of work or artist’s practice is important. I feel that this trust in a kind of silent knowledge is as important to showing work as to making it. I am consistently interested in trying to create an awareness of these qualities through writing without shutting down another’s way into the work.
What’s working? What’s not working?
So far we have had an incredibly positive response, which has been very encouraging. From established dealers, to not-for-profit organizations, to private collectors, to the artists, students, and faculty of our major local institutions, our community has been very supportive. With this generous interest in mind and to sustain our practice and other independent galleries, I consider it a goal to help build the collector base in Chicago and the notoriety of the important work being done here. Now that we feel that we have started to establish a place in our local economies, we are also interested in broadening the conversations that we are participating in both nationally and internationally.
What kind of role do you hope to play in your local art scene or community?
I think that we are succeeding in providing a place that serves as a connection point between many of the somewhat isolated groups that gather around the major institutions in Chicago, namely the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Chicago and Northwestern University. We started the space with the intention to provide a venue for exchange with a particular interest in breaking down institutional and disciplinary boundaries, while questioning, analyzing and experimenting with methods and conventions of display. (This line of inquiry was my academic focus during my time at UIC, where I spent 2 years after grad school working on the course work for a PhD in art history. I’ve since taken a leave of absence from the program, while I work directly with these questions in the gallery come laboratory).
What idea are you most excited about for the future?
I am the most excited about doing a couple of fairs next year in order to expand our reach geographically. We are interested in travelling our artists’ work and also in making connections and conversations through which we can bring speakers, performers and alterative viewpoints back into conversation with those that we participate in on a local scale.
Images courtesy of Alderman Exhibitions
Sarah Croop is an undergraduate American Culture Studies student at Washington University in St. Louis. Her work explores the intersection between the photographic object, specifically in the vernacular of the family snapshot, and the psychology of memory, and how the interaction between these is changing in the age of digital photography and social media.