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?
These may not be questions at the forefront of an artist or curator’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, we have partnered with the Harold Washington Library and their Chicago Artist Files since 2010.
HISTORY OF THE ARCHIVES AT HAROLD WASHINGTON LIBRARY
The Chicago Artist Files is a Chicago Public Library-maintained open archive of over 11,000 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.
SIXTY’S ARCHIVING WORK
Sixty works with the Chicago Artist Files to help it get more contemporary artists catalogued, particularly artists of color and along a spectrum of race, nationality, ethnicity, gender, ability, and discipline. 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 and art space we profile. 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.
Additionally, we are 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 we encourage all local artists and galleries to consider adding them to their mailing list for postcards, press releases and other promotional materials.
WHY ARCHIVING IS 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 Artist Files as a credible source.
Sixty 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 and update it on a regular basis.
What should an artist’s file include?
- Artist statement
- Artist resume
- Copies of published print/online articles and works
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are interested in independently contributing to the archive, contact email@example.com or 312.747.4800 for more information. Want to use snail mail? Send the information to
Attn: Bob Sloane
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
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.