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Pay It Forward>>Composite

Pay It Forward is a collaborative, experimental fundraiser devised by Autotelic {Studios} and Sixty Inches From Center. We are experimenting with the idea of paying it forward to other arts organizations who work to support artists and a thriving arts community in Chicago. Our Pay It Forward Series will highlight one of the eight projects that we have chosen to be part of our fundraiser each week, leading up to our Pay It Forward Fundraising Party + Housewarming on November 23rd, 7 PM at Autotelic’s new location, 1856 N. Richmond.

This week, we interviewed Zach Clark of Composite {Arts Magazine}, a quarterly electronic arts publication based in Chicago, Oakland, and Austin that uses communal and artistic dialogue to create a collaborative exhibition space. Featuring both editorial pieces and original artwork, Composite is a hybrid of a magazine and a gallery. Andi Crist of Autotelic has this to say about why we chose Composite for this collaboration: “We first met the Composite team back in 2011 when we were running the Autotelic storefront as a gallery. They had reached out to us about hosting a Composite In 3-D show in our space and introduced us to the magazine. Those guys are working their asses off, for no money, because they love art and wanted to make that information as available and digestible to as many people as possible. There is nothing we would love to see more than Composite {Arts Magazine} Issue No. 100!”

Sixty and Autotelic: How did you start?

Zach Clark: Composite was born out of a conversation Kara Cochran and I had about wanting to maintain some sort of formal community upon finishing our undergrad work around art practice, supporting arts, and the curatorial practices we had dabbled in while in school. I had a background in layout and publication, and we thought some form of magazine or journal available for free online would help us achieve what we wanted. So about a week before I moved away from Chicago, Kara, Suzanne Makol, and I found ourselves drinking whiskey (or was it rum?) on the back porch and brainstorming what this could look like. Xavier Duran came along from the get go as well, we talked a few friends and recent professors into working with us on the first issue. Two months later, Tourism was released in September of 2010. The first issue was really just us feeling out a style and a voice. As we progressed, the look of the magazine changed, and we added another editor, Joey Pizzolato, to help us with the literature in the mag. It’s been really rewarding to dive into a new problem in which none of us had experience, really, and to collaborate on creating a community and starting a conversation that none of us could have started alone.

Cover Art courtesy of Composite {Arts Magazine}

S/A: What’s your mission?

ZC: Our mission is to be able to support artists by fostering a community where they work together and further their practice by engaging each other and the public. The artists that we feature range from people who have never been shown or published before to Guggenheim award winners from all backgrounds and disciplines. Composite exists on a virtual platform so we can be an inclusive community, where participation and viewing is available to anyone, anywhere, and at no cost. We encourage collaboration and conversation. In that way, the magazine exists in a place between a critical conversation and a free and accessible gallery space.

S/A: What makes your project unique?

ZC: From the beginning, we knew we wanted this thing to exist online and free and available to everyone. However, we made a conscious decision to be different than your standard art blog showcasing artists work with an interview here or there, like booooooom, or But Does It Float for example. Not to say we aren’t big fans of these sites and others like them, we just wanted to be able to create conversations that were a little more intentional and a little less based on our individual idiosyncrasies. So we’re not doing anything terribly unique, but hopefully we’re bringing a fresh approach to a pretty vast vehicle. Another place we’re a bit unique is our desire to have literature and visual arts considered in the same space. We were noticing how rare it is for these two sides of the creative arts were existing under the same roof approaching the same topic together and wanted to remedy this, which honestly has been one of the biggest parts of our mild success. Having an editorial team comprised with both visual and literary trained creatives really causes for some valuable perspectives to come up unexpectedly.

S/A: What is the one thing that you want people to know about your organization?

ZC: You wouldn’t believe how complicated it is to have editors living in four different cities and two time zones apart. When Composite started, we were all located in Chicago. Kara is the only one left in Chicago proper. I’m now in Oakland, Joey is in Austin, and Suzie just moved down to Champagne/Urbana for Grad School at U of I. It causes some serious hurdles, especially finding meeting times, holding physical events, and applying for grants (why are so many locationally specific?!). But we think the pay-off of understanding whats going on in several parts of the country is invaluable.

Cover Art courtesy of Composite {Arts Magazine}

S/A: What are your goals, what’s coming up?

ZC: To keep collaborating and keep exploring. We just released Corporeal as our fall issue, in which we joined forces with the International Museum of Surgical Science to help curate our artists and give perspectives on the topic. It was a great way to put an issue together, and honestly, it contributed to making a really amazing issue if we say so ourselves. We’re starting to get the ball rolling on our Winter issue already, Reprobates, which we’re pretty excited about. Otherwise, we always seem to have something up our sleeve…

S/A: How does the concept of paying it forward apply to what you do and your relationship to the Chicago arts community?

ZC: One of the most important aspects of Composite to us is letting out artists do what they want. We provide the artists for each issue with a theme statement as a prompt, but from there we’re open with artists that we’re going to show and support whatever you submit in response to our theme. We hope that we can provide a space for some or our artists to work out experimentation or new ideas with their work. As far as Chicago is concerned, as I mentioned before our editorial team is spread all over the place, and we hope that we’re able to get the word our about more amazing Chicago artists that way. On the flip side, we want to expose our large Chicago readership base to more emerging artists than they might come across as is. We’re really interested in making the art world even smaller and informed.

S/A: Why did you agree to be part of this fundraiser with Sixty and Autotelic?

ZC:Autotelic has been very kind to us in the past and continues to be a great supporter of ours. We really like what they and SIFC are up to–creating more spaces for artists to make, show, and discuss their work. We’re all approaching it from different angles, but we all have the core interest of creating and supporting an artistic community, both within Chicago and in a larger national context.

To check out the latest issue of Composite {Arts Magazine}, visit

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