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The Chicago Street Art Show: Interview with curator Joseph J. Depre

During the week of installation for The Chicago Street Art Show at The Chicago Urban Art Society I had the opportunity to speak with several participating artists including curator Joseph J. Depre. Joseph and I discussed the nature, relevance and timeliness of the show and his involvement with the street art community. The closing reception for the show will take place this Friday, June 3rd. If you are unable to make it to the reception, keep posted for future coverage including a video reflection consisting of interviews and footage from the show. Additionally featured this week is an interview with Chicago street artist Don’t Fret and Goons who are also participating in The Chicago Street Art Show.

The Grocer, Still from video of show. The Chicago Street Art Chicago. Chicago Urban Art Society. Chicago, IL. 2011. Photograph by Nicolette Caldwell.  www.sixtyinchesfromcenter.org

The Grocer, Still from video of show. The Chicago Street Art Chicago. Chicago Urban Art Society. Chicago, IL. 2011. Photograph by Nicolette Caldwell. www.sixtyinchesfromcenter.org

Nicolette Caldwell: What was the initial inspiration for you to do this show? When did you start thinking about it and decide to start planning it?

Joseph J. Depre: The show itself probably came around late last summer. I have been doing a lot of traveling; to Berlin, New York, Barcelona, Sao Paolo and L.A. They have some really respectable scenes and some really amazing artists. Being from Chicago and being familiar with some of these artists in Chicago, I thought it was about time we brought everybody together and try to show Chicago for what it was—it’s true colors and try to put it on the same playing field. Chicago isn’t really necessarily internationally renowned city for street art but I don’t think that is because the street artists are not talented or putting in as much effort. I think they are absolutely doing those things and maybe more so. I am not exactly sure why Chicago does not get as much recognition as other places. I know a lot of international artists don’t come through but I think it is time that Chicago shows everybody what they’re about.

NC: What are some of your expectation for the show? How do you think it will be received?

JD: I don’t know really how it will be received. I just kind of wanted to bring everybody together to do something really amazing. I think that a lot of the artists are coming through in that way. Maybe if this gets enough attention Chicago will be respected in a relevant way in line with some of the international things that are going on.

NC: Have you received any publicity that you didn’t expect at this point?

JD: You know, I have not really been paying attention to be honest. Curating a show and building it out and getting everybody organized has really been my priority. I have not really been paying attention outside of the immediate as of yet. I hear that there are good things buzzing but I am not exactly sure what that is yet.

Ray Noland, Still from video of show. The Chicago Street Art Chicago. Chicago Urban Art Society. Chicago, IL. 2011. Photograph by Nicolette Caldwell.

Ray Noland, Still from video of show. The Chicago Street Art Chicago. Chicago Urban Art Society. Chicago, IL. 2011. Photograph by Nicolette Caldwell.

NC: What has your experience been like throughout installation and being with all of these artists in one space all week?

JD: It has been amazing. It has been a lot of work, physically and mentally just trying to keep everything in line and keep schedules and keep all the plates spinning at once with the book and the show. It is great to see everybody come together. I know most people from various other places but everybody in one place has been a blast.

NC: As the curator of this show, how is this show important to you?

JD: I like the idea of street art conceptually and theoretically. I think it is really beautiful to give the art work to the public and create an experience in the street and maybe kind of wake people up out of their day a little bit and out of their routine. I hope that this will inspire more people to do stuff on the street or maybe change some minds about how it is perceived by the general public. It really means something to me when I come across it on the street. I love it so hopefully I can get more people on board with that idea.

NC: How would you say street art is received now?

JD: It is weird because it changes over time. Here in Chicago I think it is an exciting time to be honest. I think that street art is getting more attention in Chicago than any time historically. Not just with in the street art community but outside of that as well. And it is becoming a respectable art from. I would say I think it is on a positive upswing and hopefully this will add momentum to that.

The Chicago Street Art Show Book. (Image Courtesy of The Chicago Urban Art Society)

The Chicago Street Art Show Book. (Image Courtesy of The Chicago Urban Art Society)

NC: And the book?

JD: I have done some writing (a few essays) that I contributed to the book but I wanted it to be something that comes from the artists themselves. So there was a heavy communication with the street artist that I am not misleading or exploiting or misrepresenting what their intent is. Hopefully that is how it will be received. I wanted it to be inclusive. I think that the entire community is what makes it and that all of them add a quality to the street and I wanted to make sure that everybody got a fair shake.

NC: Do you have plans in the future to curate more shows like this? Or is it more like in ten years you will do another reflection?

JD: I have been paying attention to it for so long I almost feel like it is a part of my life so I don’t know if this needs to happen immediately afterward in Chicago but I would like to see how it evolves. And hopefully good things will come of that and to the artists that are participating. That’s kind of what’s really important it is giving those artists the opportunity to shine.

NC: Anything else that you would like to mention about the show?

JD: I hope people come out and really spend some time to think about the action that it takes to go about doing this. I think that it deserves a bit more respect than it received by a fair amount of people. The pure motivation of the artist to put something together and put it out into the public without expecting anything in return I think is a quality that the world could probably do more with.

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