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On Public Art: Catching up with Pawn Works

The directors of Pawn Works are two of the most active facilitators of public art in Chicago. In addition to the short-term artist residencies they provide at Pawn Works, a small gallery space they run in Ukrainian Village, Nick and Seth have been working on establishing many relationships with local business owners in order to coordinate a number of public wall murals that have recently gone up in Ukrainian Village and surrounding neighborhoods.

In excitement for their newest and most conceptual art show to-date, Skewville: You’re Not My Type, I decided it was time to follow up with them since our last interview featured in spring of 2011. They’ve done so much since we last spoke!

Skewville: Not My Type

Skewville: Not My Type. Pawn Works Gallery. Chicago, IL. (Photograph by Nicolette Caldwell)

Nicolette Caldwell: How are you guys doing?
Pawn Works: Doing well…in the zone.  Moving, moving, moving.

NC: Has this summer been going well for you?
PW: This summer has been fantastic. It’s been go, go, go. We are really trying our best to get as many public walls as possible.  I think we have been doing a much better job reaching out and showing our resume than we have by trying to go through the “proper channel”—get the building owner on your side; its all you need.

NC: It isn’t hard to notice that you both have been hitting it hard this summer with all the programming at Pawn Works and I know we’ve talked about this before, but could you explain what your programming was like before (when you first started) and what it consists of now?
PW: As collectors ourselves and enthusiasts or whatever, we have always shown work that we are into, most simply. Over the past year, the creation of the sticker club project and the enhanced partnership between ourselves has greatly helped us go from fan to peer with many of our favorite artists. Our presence in NYC is known to be supportive and not competitive, while allowing us to reach more internationally known artists to boast about Chicago too.

NC: Leading up to your current show, would you say this one is your most successful? And what are some of the factors that you think are reasons for its success?
PW: Success? Its always seems like a success with such great responses from the artists and public alike but yeah sure, this one was quite successful. Skewville was very aware of what they were getting into. We were on the same page and really helped to support one another since Skewville joined the sticker club last year.

NC: Since we last spoke how would you say that your Chicago-based audience has been receiving Pawn Works? National? International?
PW: I hope really well. At this point we are working really hard to bring diverse group of artists to the city as well as directing locals on projects outside of Chicago. Outside of the city, where our following is a little bigger, people are very excited to know that Chicago is becoming part of the world wide conversation and that artists are now going out of there way to make a stop here and make some noise.

Skewville: Not My Type

Skewville: Not My Type. Pawn Works Gallery. Chicago, IL. (Photograph by Nicolette Caldwell)

NC: Do you have any insight as to why that is?
PW: It’s the artists and the art, all forms of public art are quite fashionable right now; people are interested. We work really well with people in this city for the most part, though its not always reciprocated.  We now have a really tight team of local artists, writers and the most down street photographer in the city, Brock Brake . They all support the city and the scene to fullest in the same way we try to do.

NC: What are your plans for the fall?
PW: Walls, walls, walls! As well as showing some artists we feel push the contemporary art scene with a bit less of a focus in the street. Then off to Miami!

NC: What is different about Skewville from the rest of the artists you have worked with?
PW: PRICED NOT TO SELL OUT. They have seen it all in this game like only a few other legends who don’t deserve a name drop here, have but you know what I’m saying…

NC: How has their experience been while working in Chicago?
PW: I think everyone who came out this year has had a very positive experience.

NC: So how has coordinating public wall murals been going?
PW: That’s what we are all about. Many galleries tend to pose when ‘their’ artists hit the street to do work that ultimately helps them sell pieces and promotes their space. For us, no matter in Chicago or NYC, we love loading up the car, being on site with a crew of equally passionate people, and working with artists as much or more than we do working in the Gallery.

We recently had the opportunity to meet up with some really talented people involved in the scene during a recent trip to Europe. We hope this will lead to some interesting projects in 2012.

NC: Which artists have worked on those projects with you? Locations? Favorites? More to come?
PW: At the moment, we are high on the “Prindiville lot” off of Milwaukee and California at the California Blue line stop. With Skewville, Snacki and ROA doing their thing it’s become one of the best spots in the city off of the train. Yes, definitely more to come. By the time this is published there will be some new work from an International wheat paste hero of ours…HINT: he’s French.

To find out more about Skewville go to

For more information about Pawn Works go to

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1 Response to " On Public Art: Catching up with Pawn Works "

  1. […] "On Public Art: Catching up with Pawn Works"- Interview with Pawn Works about their "Skewville" show, their gallery, and public/street art generally. (Nicolette Caldwell) […]

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