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The Chicago Performance Network

by Minami Furukawa

Connectivity, Sara Schnadt

The Chicago Performance Network works to bring an awareness and variety into performance art in Chicago, while also trying to sustain and build interest in the genre.  Cofounders Mark Jeffrey and Sara Schnadt created this committee in hopes of creating a stronger and more diverse performance art community in a city where such a scene was lacking.

The committee was formed in late August of 2006 after the founders attended a weak performance and realized that they wanted to do something about the struggling performance art scene in Chicago.  Inspired by the audience response (about 3000 people!) for “Sight Unseen”, an annual site-specific performance series that had started in the previous Fall, hosted by the Department of Cultural Affairs, Jeffrey and Schnadt focused on the cultivation of local work and artists and the importance of bringing outside works to the attention of the community.  Jeffrey describes this interest; “it’s important to me that students know/see that there is work that’s not just local work but that it’s operating on an international level…that sense of sustaining oneself can happen locally but there is a much more interesting dialogue that can begin to happen when you have these differences.”

The group is composed of a variety of Chicagoan artists, educators, and scholars working in effort to “create more local community and national/international context for the work that is being done here, which really helps the artists’ base and gives back to the community”, says Schnadt.

Mark Jeffrey

CPN’s biannual series IN>TIME act as a “call to bring national/international work into Chicago”, while Sight Unseen showcases strictly local work.  In addition, the committee’s interest in assisting emerging artists is prevalent in its “Incubational Artist” mission which offers residencies to newly graduated art students, offering them exposure and development of their practice after college.

Hosted by the Department of Cultural Affairs, CPN acts as an advising board and support network to facilitate, announce, and advise work that the Department is doing.  In turn, the Department acts as mentors with their backgrounds and knowledge in the art field.   The committee allows for a formal networking, and is a mechanism and vehicle for the artists within it to stay in touch, share events, have discussions, and share announcements in a loose community.  In this way, collaboration through conversation and sharing of works, as well as a circulation of each other’s interests that inspires each others’ works is possible.  This is the framework of the origins of CPN, as Jeffrey and Schnadt created the program in order to create an art scene in Chicago that they wanted to be a part of.  The interests of these artists is reflected in the works presented in events such as IN>TIME and Sight Unseen.

Sara Schnadt at Site Unseen

Mark Jeffrey received a fine arts degree in visual performance, working on live art in southwest England.  He currently has a show at the MCA titled “The Living Newspapers”, and is in residency at the Hyde Park Art Center with a three month exhibition from January to March 2011 that is currently in progress.  He is also a performance art professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Sara Schnadt  has an active performance practice, and is also the technologist and content manager of Chicago Artists Resource.  She is involved as an artist in a pilot show for the Pop-Up Art series in downtown Chicago.  She has an MFA in performance from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and also works in new media and video.