Roots & Culture
How is the project operated?
Roots & Culture is a 501(c)(3) organization.
How long has it been in existence?
We opened in November, 2006.
What was your motivation?
Chicago has a thriving DIY art exhibition space community that I came up in. We also use to be home to great non-profit art centers. I suppose I had a vision to harness the energy and conviviality of the apartment space model but approach it in a grander, slightly more professionalized way. Chicago also has a syndrome in which artists feel like the plateau and run out of opportunities in Chicago, so I wished to provide another opportunity which would give artists freedom and flexibility in how they exhibit their work.
Number of organizers/responsible persons of the project.
I (Eric May) am the director and primary full time coordinator of the space. Alexander Stewart curates our monthly film and video program. I work with one or two interns per semester from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago that work part time. I also rely on a great community of friends, artists, and supporters as well.
How are programs funded?
We raise approximately 20% of our revenue through grant writing. About 25% of our revenue comes through private donations, and nearly half of our revenue is raised through fundraising events.
Who is responsible for the programming?
We have an exhibitions committee comprised of myself, the board president, and another rotating member of our board. We meet twice a year and assemble a panel that also includes a rotating member of the Chicago art community at large to jury proposals.
Number and average duration of exhibitions/events per year.
We host about 9 visual arts exhibitions and 9 film and video screenings per year. We also host a monthly dinner party called The Piranha Club and now host the Sunday Soup project which happens quarterly. This fall a monthly performance series will take the place of the screening series (just during fall seasons).
What kind of events are usually organized?
The visual arts exhibitions fall into two categories: two person shows and curated group exhibitions. We host 5- 6 two person shows per year and 2- 3 curated shows.
How is your programming determined?
Do you accept proposals/submissions?
What is your artistic/curatorial approach?
We support primarily emerging, Chicago-based artists working in the entire scope of contemporary art practices for our two person show series. Our curatorial shows are open to emerging curators from just about anywhere.
What’s working? What’s not working?
Over the course of the past six years there have been a lot of ups and downs. Financial stability, of course, is a primary issue. And fortunately we have been operating without a deficit for over two years now. Finding more funding is always tricky though, and we still seek budget for staff salaries. I’d say the impact of our programming in terms of offering opportunities to emerging artists is at an all time high – we receive an overwhelming amount of proposals each season and the quality is very impressive. Reaching new audiences is always a concern of public, nonprofit programs and I’d say things are doing well in that department these days too between all the new programs that we are hosting and by accepting proposals from diverse communities, we seem to be attracting new audiences.
What kind of role do you hope to play in your local art scene or community?
I envision Roots & Culture as an incubator for the finest talent emerging from Chicago’s world-class art schools, a first major opportunity for artists with bright careers ahead of them. I also hope that R & C is an approachable place for art communities, always inviting and convivial. The programming should always be distinctive and inclusive.
What idea are you most excited about for the future?
I am really excited about our upcoming seasons, we have some very high calibre work coming our way in the fall and then in early 2013. I look forward to Sunday Soup becoming an active and recurring program at the space and also the Piranha Club dinners.
Images courtesy of Roots & Culture.
Sarrita Hunn is the managing editor and co-founder of Temporary Art Review. Over the last decade, she has worked with many artist-run and alternative spaces and projects across the globe including recently at Koh-i-noor (Copenhagen, Denmark) with sponsorship from the Danish Arts Council. www.sarritahunn.com