Get Archived

Have you thought about your artistic legacy recently? Have you asked yourself what people will know about you and your work ten, twenty, fifty, or one hundred years from now?

Harold Washington Library, 2010. (Image Courtesy of Tempestt Hazel.)

These may not be questions at the forefront of an artist’s mind, but they have been on ours. Part of the mission of Sixty Inches From Center is to document and archive the work that contemporary Chicago artists are doing—in their voices and with their words. To stay true to this mission, Sixty Inches From Center is introducing our partnership with the Harold Washington Library and their Chicago Artists Archive.

The Chicago Artists Archive is a Chicago Public Library-maintained open archive of over 10,000 Chicago artists who have exhibited work in at least two exhibitions locally, nationally or internationally. This archive was originally established in the 1940s from documentation of exhibitions at the downtown branch of the Chicago Public Library when it was in the building that is now the Chicago Cultural Center. While the archive has successfully created a place in history for established mid to late twentieth century artists, capturing twenty-first century artists, new practices, new media and new technology has proved challenging for the archive.

This is where Sixty Inches From Center comes in. In an effort to help preserve the legacy of the art that our organization supports, have a hand in shaping the art history of Chicago and help address the changing landscape of the art world, we will regularly contribute the content of our website to the archive, creating files for each artist. These files will be openly on view at the Harold Washington Library. We will also be working with the Harold Washington Library to investigate the best practices in new media archiving and documentation.

We are also working on ways to connect with other archives around Chicago.  Currently we are also sending the duplicates we get to The Pamphlet Files at Ryerson Library at the Art Institute of Chicago, which encourage all local artists and galleries to consider adding them to their mailing list for postcards, press releases and other promotional materials.

Why is this important?

NON-DIGITAL DOCUMENTATION: These histories will be tangible, printed and preserved using standard archival methods and materials, allowing artists to have another place in addition to online portfolios where work is documented.

CONSTANTLY EVOLVING RECORD OF ARTISTS: As an open archive, artists are allowed to add to their folders at any time. Whenever an artist creates a new series of work, participates in an exhibition, or has something published, Sixty Inches From Center or the Harold Washington Library can be contacted and these items will be added to the file.

AN ACTIVE, LIVING ARCHIVE: Researchers, scholars and students will be able to cite the work of living, contemporary artists in relation to academic, scholarly or journalistic writing using the Chicago Artists Archive as a credible source.


SIFC will get you started with our articles and interviews, but the rest is up to you. Once a file is started for you, we encourage artists to add more materials to the files.

What should an artist’s file include?
● Artist statement
● Artist resume
● Exhibitions
● Copies of published print/online articles and works
● Interviews
● Replications of sketches, photographs of yourself and your work
● Installation shots of exhibitions
● Photos of studio spaces
● Ephemera posters and postcards from exhibitions

We encourage ALL Chicago artists to take the initiative and start a file on themselves, or contact Sixty Inches From Center for an interview.  Also, anyone who is a chronic Chicago art lover, attends events on a regular basis and has an abundance of ephemera that you don’t know what to do with, we encourage you to send those items over to the Chicago Artists Archive.

If you are an artist that we have interviewed, we are currently working towards creating or adding the information we have to the file that you have in the Chicago Artists Archive. Any questions can be sent to If you are interested in independently contributing to the archive, contact or 312.747.4800 for more information. Want to use snail mail?  Send the information to

Attn:Leslie Patterson
Art Information Center
Chicago Public Library
400 S. State Street
Chicago, IL 60605


Attn: Amelia James
Ryerson & Burnham Libraries
The Art Institute of Chicago
111 S. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60603-6404

Also, keep an eye out for our new series, Mining the Archives, where Jes Standefer mined the contents of the Chicago Artists Archive, rediscovering some of Chicago’s artists over the past sixty years.

Note: The Harold Washington Library will print most files on archival paper on-site; therefore, it is best to deliver information to Sixty Inches From Center or the library staff in digital form, if possible.

2 Responses to " Get Archived "

  1. […] If you want to be a part of it, read their page, Get Archived: […]

  2. […] to represent the artists of the 21st century. To that end we are partnering with a group called Sixty Inches from Center, which is a fantastic group of young artists/art historians, who are documenting the new […]

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