Around the Coyote: to morph or to die


As it turns twenty-one, Around the Coyote (ATC) is facing a crossroads: to morph or to die.  It can combine/merge/partner with another organization, severely reduce programming or go out of business, according to Allison Stites, who returned as the 501C-3 organization's interim Executive Director in October 2009.  The four-person Board of Directors will be meeting some time in mid to late January to make the final decision.

Beginning in late September the convergence of many negative events started. The organization's finances were shaky. The 2009 Fall event was fiscally disappointing. Funding began to be significantly reduced. Numbers of artists and buyers began plummeting. Staffing challenges arose and the Board of Directors began dwindling. Now proper venues for the Fall 2010 event are difficult to find and staff is working pro bono.

David Meeker, Board Member, reiterated the extreme difficulty festival space acquisition has been.  He too feels that the downturn in the economy presented added challenges to the Board and budget. "Continual challenges included how to position the organization and grow it," he explained.  "Because so many people came here from outside the neighborhood, we wanted to expand beyond the neighborhood yet keep a hub were it all started at Milwaukee, Damen and North."

Having moved to Wicker Park several years ago because of his love of the Around the Coyote festivals, Meeker hopes some financial angels can come in and save the organization.  Realistically he hopes that, if they do have to close, they will be able to pass on the legacy to another entity in the community.

Kara Salgado, Executive Director of the West Town Chicago Chamber of Commerce, has seen the evolution of ATC over many years, "They have morphed into something so different than when they began.  They went from small spaces to big spaces, less local to more international.  They changed with the times and spaces.  Let's hope they can morph again. It will be too bad if they have to fold."

Preserving the services to emerging artists provided by the organization is more of a concern than preserving the organization's name according to Stites.  She explained the four basic services offered by ATC: an artist-in-residence program which provides an artist space for a month and a space for an exhibit; festivals which provide opportunities for networking; free art classes for 6 to 12 year olds in Wicker Park; and monthly art gallery exhibits for individuals and groups, providing both emerging curators and artists a way to garner experience.


Eric Ashcraft's might as well try to stop the sun from rising tomorrow, 2009*

Patrons and curators are encouraged to visit the twenty artist spaces from the Winter Show in  the ATC location at the corner of Division and Honore, 1815-25 W. Division.  Each artist was given a space in which to create and display their work.  Call 773.342.6777 for an appointment to view the work.

When Jim Happy-Delpech, a Cameroon-born Parisian gallery owner, came to Chicago in 1989 he found a contemporary and experimental art community that was diverse and innovative.  Largely unknown even among the internationally recognized greater Chicago arts community, these emerging/experimental artists had no developed local forum.  Old factories and warehouse lofts housed hundreds of artists busily creating their works.  This inspired Delpech to form an organization that could showcase these artists to all of Chicago.

The Bohemian art fairs held in Paris were the inspirations for Delpech, writer Elizabeth Burke and gallery directors Sam Johnson and Devin Freitas in 1990 to create an annual festival that combined an artists' studio walk, art exhibition and performing arts, featuring emerging artists of all disciplines.

With the 1929 art deco Northwest Tower building at Milwaukee, North and Damen Avenues as the hub, the building was nicknamed the Coyote Tower and the festival branded as "Around the Coyote."

*hand-crafted wooden chair composed of tempera, condensed fiber board, brass, latex paint, oil paint on plasticine, and pubic hair.  Photo courtesy of Ryan Dunn

What solutions or comments do you have about the ATC dilemma?



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