photo: Abby Glogower
Chicago's centralized, coastless location not only allows for larger spaces and cheaper rents, but it's also ripe breeding ground for artists who want to start their own spaces, DIY-style. Case in point: The Second City-based No Coast Collective recently took over a former grocery store in Pilsen [1500 W. 17th]; this month, it adds a store featuring artist books, CDs, comics and t-shirts from local, national and international artists. No Coast hosts a Grand Opening Party and BBQ beginning at 3 p.m. on October 11, and features These Are Powers (Chicago/Brooklyn), Future Islands (Baltimore) and Radical Passenger (Chicago). I sat down with collective member Aay Preston-Myint to talk about how the space started—and what Chicago art folks can expect in the future.
Who are the members of No Coast?
No Coast members include Melanie Treuhaft, Anne Novotny (Frei Designs), Reba Rakstad (Rar Rar Press), Aay Preston-Myint, Eric Haynes, Alex Valentine, Lindsay Powell, and Andrea Fritsch. Judah is the dog in the picture, not a real member. Andrea Fritsch and Lindsay Powell were absent at the time of photo. All No Coast members are working artists and designers.
How did the space/collective form?
Well, we had the print studio, fiber studio and the store, but then we had to ask ourselves what the point of all this was. So we started drafting mission statements and asked ourselves, is it based on medium, concept or what? We decided to have artists who were also working with print and fiber involved in our collective. We also decided that we wanted to have an open approach to events, performances and other events that will take place in the front space, and have an open submission for materials that would go into the store. We promote and highlight certain things that we like; but there's no curation, per se.
Tell me about the space.
Alex Valentine, one of the collective's members, was really into having a consignment store with artists' books, music, things like that, from around the country and Chicago. The webshop is phase two; we're still getting merchandise in. Right now I am working on Featherproof Books, and Green Lantern Press. We work with individual publishers and artists too, like my friend Dewayne Slightweight. He does a lot of multimedia stuff, and won the CAAP Grant a few years ago. Local bands and zine makers, t-shirt makers, clothing accessories, stuff like that. There's this guy Corn Dog who does these crazy airbrush t-shirts, street-corner style. Right now I am talking to this woman in New York, Ginger Brooks Takahashi, about getting her work. Reba Rakstad, one of our members, she does t-shirts and letterpress under the name Rar Rar Press. I make t-shirts also. Alex has contacted people in Europe like this German group, they're called Bongoût, and they do really insane print work. We're also getting books from Space1026 in Philadelphia.
Where did the name come from?
No Coast worked because there's something about this space and others like it that's very unique to Chicago, I think, in that there is this surplus of space here so people really need to pull together to make something happen. There's so much potential as opposed to other cities, especially if you think about New York where there's not enough space so people are really competitive about getting their name out or getting into galleries, or the other place people go, like San Francisco, and it's really expensive to live there. Here you have a lot of really cheap space, and I think that really informs the community and kind of art that is made here. You have a lot of art that is situation-based, and you have a lot of politically motivated conferences and festivals and installations and things that more involve space and time than an actual commodity being sold. I think part of that is the art market here in Chicago is more conservative, so artists don't really care because there's not much of a market to sell to here and it's cheap to live here. So all those things combine and make Chicago a place where a lot of spaces like that can exist. It's a celebration of our weird landlocked situation.
If I were to come to Pilsen, your neighborhood, where would you insist I go and why?
If you want to buy clothes, go to KNEE DEEP. They are an awesome vintage store, and they'll get you dressed for a reasonable price and they're super friendly. It's right on 18th next to the Jumping Bean. I recommend La Cebollita for a snack because they will put a chile relleno inside your burrito if you ask them to. Definitely Plaines Project is a nice gallery space; they have interesting projects and it's like a live/work space, so people are really open and friendly.
Which artists are you looking at these days?
I barely look at any art these days. I guess I'm really into Buckminster Fuller, he's more of a visionary. In the Art World he's getting a lot of attention right now—he's got that show at the Whitney. These days I've been getting more ideas from writing and theory than other visual artists. In terms of visual art, I'm around my friends' work more than anything.