An Art Exhibit to Love

by Nathan

I hate art exhibits.

Granted, I haven’t been to all that many, and most of them were with a younger and less educated version of myself. That said, what I remember about them is this feeling: I am immediately reminded, upon stepping into an art exhibit of any considerable size, that A) there is more there than I can see in the time that I have, B) it represents an unattainable goal, and C) it forces me to judge how I use my time because standing before one piece of artwork and admiring it, is choosing to not make it to exhibit 439, 431, and 432.

I also hate all of my unanswered questions. How was this made? Or, more importantly, why was it made? What could have inspired someone to do such a beautiful – or such a repulsive – thing?

The third reason I hate art exhibits is that taking a living breathing person’s inspiration and throwing it up on a wall in a building with no furniture, with no aromas of apple pie in the air, with no human voices around it.  When it’s not in a living environment, is it really the best place for art to exist?  Cold.  Lack of life.  Not many people.

My visit to the Northrup King Building last night was none of these things.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.

It was their monthly First Thursdays event. About 50 of their 190 artistsopened their studios for

The Northrup King Building (image from

observation and conversation. It was a living, breathing place with many of the artists building the art, creating the art, in the same place that they were showing it. The long corridors of this old refurbished manufacturing plant served as the gateway to whichever studios happened to be opened for viewing. There were many studios that weren’t open, but that helped you to focus more on the ones that were – unlike a typical exhibit. The fact that the artists were present helped the exhibit to be less about the art and, for me, more about meeting the artist.

 I met two weavers who had the largest loom I had ever seen. Surrounded by their beautiful work, we discussed the arts. One woman recalled taking the train to downtown Chicago to see an opera with her family on Sunday afternoons while the other talked lovingly about Cantus. I met a woman who lives in Africa half the year and creates cultural jewelry with a nomadic tribe and sells it around the world.  Another artist excitedly shared the process of painting with a hot plate of beeswax, her newest medium. The informal setting of First Thursdays was a great way to hear other people’s perspectives on the art as well.  I enjoyed the occasional music group playing a live acoustic bluegrass session or covers set.

A highlight of the evening was observing people’s reaction to me, or, to be more specific, the little work of art that I was carrying. I never knew an eight-month old could enjoy an art exhibit. But perhaps someone would at any age if everyone oogled over them everywhere they went.  Patience lived up to her name, fussing never, charming all. She did attempt to eat a grandma’s finger, but at the end of the night, as I fed her a bottle back in the car I realized she was a masterpiece.  It’s not that the art isn’t good enough on its own, I just think that, for me anyway, art is so much more meaningful when enjoyed in community.

I hate art exhibits. I love going to First Thursdays with Patience Rae.