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Matthew Avignone

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The Coat Check Gallery - Making Chicago More Accessible for Emerging Artists

As I travel around the country, I keep meeting people who are doing the most creative things to get exposure for emerging artists, and it inspires me beyond measure.  In Chicago, there seemed to be cool things bubbling up everywhere I looked.  Maybe because Chicago was one of the forerunners of the apartment gallery scene (along with San Francisco), the arts community there has seen the success of DIY and how to run with it.  Apartment galleries have become such a fixture in the arts scene, that many established galleries consider them feeders for bringing new talent to their attention.  (This warms my Crusading heart!) Matthew Avignone - a photographer, curator and energetic advocate for all things Chicago and art - is the studio manager at David Weinberg Photography, and he has transformed a section of this gorgeous space in the epicenter of Chicago's iconic galleries for a curatorial project called The Coat Check.  The Coat Check puts on exhibitions by emerging artists and gives them the opportunity for high visibility and exposure, due to the location and built-in audience the Weinberg Gallery brings.

They have put up two exhibitions, and I was able to catch a sneak peek at the super top-secret upcoming work.  But one of my favorite parts was this newsprint publication they produce for each show that acts as poster, souvenir, informative guide and collectible publication.  This is a great branding idea - each is unique, but the consistency makes you want them all. 

Looking for help creating your own innovative ideas to connect new audiences to your work?  That's what Crusade for Art is all about.  Read more here.

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Crusading in Chicago: the trials, the triumphs, the wind

Chicago, you were a tough one.  To be fair, we popped up on a busy downtown street corner on a chilly, windy Friday afternoon of a holiday weekend.  And I expected this to be a more challenging location, because of these circumstances.  Several people suggested popping up in more art-friendly spots, but that's not the real point, after all.  We are trying to give people an arts experience who were not already seeking one out.  So we just had to zip up our Crusade hoodies and be extra charming.

The events we've had on weekends felt more relaxed - people seem more willing to stop and check out a curiosity on a Saturday.  These business people not only did not stop, they did not even respond.  Occasionally we got a curt hand or head shake, indicating "no thank you,  not a chance", but mostly people just ignored our "Would you like a free photograph from one of these local Chicago artists?".

But that just made the moments we did connect that much sweeter (though not warmer). The five local photographers were really earnest and excited about reaching out to the people in their city, and there were some really amazing moments.  And amazing photography.

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