Gallery Spotlight: Swimming Pool Project Space

Gallery Spotlights are posts about randomly selected* art venues in Chicago
Carrie McGath

The Swimming Pool Project Space

My first dip into the pool of playful ideas that is Swimming Pool Project Space happened on a recent rainy Sunday. Walking down the three steps into the “pool” gives the space an absolute specialty, spotlighting an intent that is fun as it is avant garde. Its swimming-pool blue floor illustrates the space’s personality, a disposition of play that also talks back to the traditions of a white cube.

Liz Nielsen, the owner, Creative Director and Curator of Swimming Pool Project Space proudly states, “I just like the idea of having a gallery that does not have a completely traditional look. The blue floor in here alters the whole space.” The current show, Art: Under 21, shows work by artists who are under the age of twenty-one. These young artists are from all over the United States, lending a diversity to the show, and to the space itself, featuring an exchange of ideas that exemplifies Swimming Pool Project Space’s mission and vision.

Carolina Wheat, Director of Sales and Marketing at Swimming Pool, added her pride about the diversity and uniqueness of the space. “We are stepping outside of the boundaries of what a typical gallery would do. What gallery is going to show work by nineteen-year-olds, or have dogs walking through the gallery with outfits on for a fashion show? We are taking risks with a play and a sense of humor, moving outside the traditional gallery space.”

Outdoor screening area at Swimming Pool Project Space

Liz went on to tell me about the history of Swimming Pool Project Space, as well as its present and future as a pool filled with varying and unique exchanges of ideas. “We’re coming up on our two-year anniversary which is July 12, although we’re having the anniversary opening show and party on July 17th. For the anniversary opening, I am getting an ice sculpture of a princess-cut diamond that will be outside, so it will melt during the show.” Liz spoke of the melting sculpture excitedly and endearingly, saying she chose the princess-cut design to allude to its being an engagement ring highlighting her commitment to the gallery.

The melting ice sculpture of the princess-cut ring truly exemplifies what Swimming Pool Project Space is all about: the ebbs and transmutations that come with the gallery’s unwavering risk-taking and play, two large elements of the gallery’s mission. Liz talked a lot about the thought behind the gallery during our interview. “The mission is to take risks in the gallery, so a lot of the work is very innovative and all of it is about play, about the exchange of ideas that happen in a pool, and the smallness of the gallery creates a natural opportunity for visitors to have intimate conversations and exchange their own ideas.”

The Anniversary show that opens on July 17th, illustrates one of Swimming Pool’s playful themes: deconstructing traditional avenues of curating. “So the show is called Stay in Your Lane and we are building walls in the gallery to make three different lanes where each curator will curate their own lane. There will also be a pool party out back with games and that’s where the princess-cut diamond ice sculpture will be as well. I have risky ideas about curating that I want to do just to see how it will work.”

The Swimming Pool Project Space

The passionate life of Swimming Pool is infectious and admirable, and Liz Nielsen accepts submissions from artists and curators. More information about the gallery and submitting proposals for shows, can be found on their website. The gallery is open on Sundays from 1:00-5:00 and by appointment. They will now also be open on Tuesdays from 11:00-5:00. Swimming Pool Project Space is located at 2858 West Montrose in the Ravenswood neighborhood.

“I want people to have fun, so I am interested in taking risks and having fun with art in the context of a gallery. We are going beyond the purity of a traditional gallery space,” said Liz in conclusion.  Swimming Pool Project Space is indeed just that: a never-ending experiment in play and in pushing boundaries to further the gallery’s fun-loving nature. Give it a try, step into the pool, and have some thoughtful fun.

*Gallery spotlights are chosen based on a lottery, which we document by videotape, in order to be transparent and truly random. 10 were chosen out of a pool of 350.