Visual Art Open Studio session at the Dorchester Art + Housing Collaborative

Since 2014, Disparate Minds has been an itinerant endeavor which initially began through an extended road trip to visit progressive art studios across the country. After spending 2015 developing progressive art studios in Alaska, our travels continued periodically through organizing exhibitions in LA and New York, speaking at universities, and additional studio visits to directly engage with artists about their creative practices. While living in different states for the past few years, we’ve maintained our collaborative writing process, albeit remotely.

Advancing this project in Chicago begins with the understanding that there’s something radical and crucially important happening in these studios which transcends art and disability. Fundamental to the progressive art studio is a concept which, almost inadvertently, cuts a direct path through humanity’s labored efforts to realize the promise of an organized society; the nature of that path and its mechanisms provide valuable insight. Our intention is to demonstrate the potential power of this model while providing space and materials to marginalized artists with disabilities living in the severely under-served South Side community. Currently we facilitate weekly Visual Art Open Studio sessions at the Stony Island Arts Bank, creating alongside regular attendees like artist Marvin Young.

Marvin Young at the Stony Island Arts Bank

While acknowledging the rich legacy of self-taught artists in Chicago that includes Joseph Yoakum, Henry Darger, Lee Godie, Pauline Simon, Mr. Imagination, and fellow artists who championed their work, we’re focused on strengthening our advocacy efforts in a few ways. For the immediate future, we’ll continue to discuss the progression of this international movement, increase the visibility of incredible work being created in these studios, and shift the language that defines this ongoing dialogue through exhibition reviews, essays, and interviews. With the generous support of the Creative Capital/Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant, we look forward to investing in comprehensive essays on work of the best artists we’ve encountered, who remain almost entirely unknown. In addition, we will continue to pursue curatorial projects that include contemporary artists of all abilities, such as Slow Read at Circle Contemporary, an upcoming group exhibition of work we selected by Chicago-based artists employing various approaches to abstraction (several artists maintain creative practices at the Arts of Life studios).

For the long term, we intend to apply our extensive research over the course of this project in the development of innovative programming, either independently or in partnership with existing agencies, service providers, or other forward-thinking allies. Currently we’re compelled by ideas seeking to reconcile the history of progressive art studios as facility-based programs (and the environment inherent in the nature of an art studio) with their future, which must be community-based and integrated. We anticipate sharing the development of various independent initiatives recently founded by artists or other art professionals who were previously facilitators in progressive art studio settings. These studios and collectives, as well as the ideology they represent, are more important than ever - access and inclusion aren’t just beneficial to society, but an essential dynamic in its viability.

Marvin Young, Untitled, 2019, graphite, colored pencil, and ballpoint pen on paper