Artists in Conversation:

Paul Natkin

What are the most common challenges musicians face in the music business in Chicago? What advice do you offer them?

The challenges are too many to list here but the most critical are:

1.) Building an audience
2.) Getting gigs

Chris Clemente

Endorsement Deals: Who gets them? How?

I think getting an endorsement
deal really comes down to a musician’s visibility through either live gigs
and/or recordings. Of course, the musician has to come up with the goods, so to
speak. Do they have to be virtuosos? No, but of a higher caliber. Some mediocre
players sneak past the radar but virtually all these musicians are likely in
high visibility situations.

Eleni Vryza

As a process of storytelling, how can mask making help young people to identify cross-culturally?

I graduated from The Central Academy of Drama in China where I
studied painting. We studied painting and also opera make-up, working with
different artists. I was really fascinated by Beijing opera’s stylized make-up and
extremely beautiful costumes. They occupy the whole stage and their costuming
also conveys meaning about the story and what characters are represented. My
artwork conveys those characters and their dynamic stories with
representational masks.

James Barry and Hui-Min Tsen

How do you engage your audience in your project's process?

On the surface, our ties to exploration take an obvious
form. The over-riding structure of our
project, the Mt. Baldy Expedition, is that of a journey. We are building a 12-foot wooden sailing
dinghy that we will sail from Chicago to Mt. Baldy,
a sand dune in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. In addition to this, we have been performing
lectures and workshops to share our discoveries with the world.

Brian Kapernekas

A Studio Practice on the Move

For artists traveling abroad or in residency programs, the reality of the studio in constant flux is always being addressed. For some, a studio practice is non-existent or manifests in ways specific to the work. As a painter and sculptor, maintaining a studio practice is vital and inherent to my process. It has been a given for me—having a separate, physical space for my art work—of which no question has had to be asked about its necessity, until recently.

Lucia Mauro, Arts Writer and Critic

How did you develop your niche as an Arts Writer and Dance Critic?

Like many aspiring dancers, one of my earliest inspirations came in the form of the unapologetically melodramatic 1948 film,The Red Shoes, featuring Moira Shearer as art- and love-torn ballerina, Victoria Page. When asked why she dances, Shearer’s character famously responds, “Why do you want to live?” I became captivated by the movie’s strange and glamorous universe, complete with a Svengali-esque ballet impresario, Leonide Massine’s wild-eyed turn as a sinister cobbler in the fantasy-ballet sequence, and sweeping views of the French Riviera.

Robby Zar

How do you cope with multiple roles as artist and professional? Answer: You are not your job.

*Click here for a recent performance

is April Fool’s Day, 2008. I am standing in the living room of my grandmother’s
house as mourners attempt to make light of a difficult day with conversation. A
stranger approaches me and, although I try to avoid eye contact, manages to
appoint himself at my side. He says to me, “What do you do?”

The Ailey School NYC

An interview with Denise Jefferson

Diane Jefferson talks auditions, the Ailey School, and her relationship to Chicago.

Alison Ruttan

How do you use your art as an impetus for social dialogue?

I am a visual artist whose work interests have landed me in the field of Evolutionary Biology.

Shawn Stucky

How did you discover screen printing as a medium?

I began screen printing in 2006 as a way to relieve stress and to put my personal feelings into a form I could easily understand. Creating something beautiful and sharing it with those around me was a way for me to communicate my feelings. The truth is, I never intended my work to be seen by anyone beyond a close circle of my friends.

Sarah Ward, South Chicago Art Center

As a not-for-profit, how do you select which opportunities to apply for and which ones to ignore?

The South Chicago Art Center was established in 2001 to address a pressing need in one of Chicago’s most blighted neighborhoods. South Chicago was devoid of free after-school programs and local teenagers had no after-school programs available at all. The Art Center was set up to meet these needs, but also to do much more.

What is Your Most Successful Strategy for Getting Your Work out There?

About 6 years ago, I went into Gallery Mornea with a portfolio of post-baby paintings. Bert Menco had seen my work and he encouraged me to approach the Gallery. So, after years of serious motherhood to the (almost) total exclusion of art-making, I grabbed the kid, the stroller, and the portfolio and marched right in to my appointment. My reluctance was met with complete acceptance. In fact, I was included in a group show a few months later as a result of this.

Joe Chiappetta

How do you balance parenthood with your artistic practice?

The short answer is, very carefully. As a married father of three children and an artist, I can't say that I have always balanced home life and artistic activity properly. Consequently, the wife and kids get the short end of the stick. The cliché of "starving artist" should be amended with, "...brought to you by suffering family." I say this because too much art, including my own, has been made at the expense of quality time with my own flesh and blood.

Nicholas Barron

What makes a successful music career?

My idea of success has changed significantly over the 24 years that I've been making my living through music. I felt successful when I was 21 years old and playing in the Chicago subway. It was there, and on the Chicago streets in the bitter months of winter, where I learned to sing blues and soul music, both in solo and ensemble settings. Making enough money to buy dinner and have a delicious beer or two felt like success.

Anne Harris

What makes a successful music career?

I feel that success, in its broadest terms, means to be engaged in work that feeds the soul and nourishes the spirit. I began my professional music career playing in a popular Chicago cover band for several years. This opportunity afforded me the luxury of being able to support myself solely through my art. It was during this time that I began songwriting with the intention of someday starting my own project.

Joe Shanahan, owner of Metro and Double Door

When booking bands at Metro, how do you balance artistic and commercial concerns and also your own taste vs. representing the local/national scene accurately?

In this illuminating interview Joe Shanahan, owner of Metro/Smart Bar and Double Door, offers his views on Chicago's vibrant music scene, what makes it tick, and what young bands and artists can do to get a foothold.

Kara Kesselring

Beyond paying the bills, what makes a successful music career?

Many people have different definitions of what makes a successful music career. One obvious answer is whether one can sustain themselves financially on their earnings as a musician. When I moved to Chicago in 1995 after completing a classical voice degree from the University of Iowa, I gave myself a three year deadline: If I couldn’t make a living as a musician, then it wasn’t meant to be and I’d try something else.

Laura Doherty

What job has been the most useful to your music career, and how did you get it?

I started to mold my life around music when I discovered the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago, which has definitely been useful to my music career. Music was initially a hobby for me, but it's always been a life-long passion. I picked up the guitar at age 16 and never put it down. After college, I moved to Chicago in 1992 and began playing in coffeehouses singing covers and a few original tunes.

Vijay Tellis-Nayak

What importance does your formal musical training have when producing other bands or solo artists?

It’s important to note that all great musicians have “studied” music. The degree to which that “study” has been formal, or qualifies as training, varies from musician to musician and probably matters little in terms of aesthetic effect. I should note that when I say “musician,” I am including not only the standard definition but also engineers, producers and everyone else who is involved in making aesthetic decisions.

Dan Wallace

What have been some of the biggest challenges to promoting yourself in the Chicago music scene?

One of the biggest challenges I’ve encountered while promoting my music in Chicago stems from the fact that I perform under my own name as opposed to a band name.