W. Keith Brown
Dispatch is the brainchild of longtime Bucktown resident and artist / educator Karen Lange. It is a small modular apartment gallery and creative space just west of I-90 on the corner of Hermitage Avenue and Cortland Street. A few years ago, after completing a MAAE at SAIC and an MFA from Northern Illinois University, Lange had a dream of starting an art space and youth art school in her community. A successful artist in her own right, Lange used a teaching position as funding and her art practice as inspiration; many ideas were explored for what would become Dispatch: Creative Space | Art School. In the spring of 2010, Dispatch ran its first visual art class for youth, facilitated a local art sale, and hosted a live art event / exhibition for the community.
Since its inception, Dispatch has undergone minor conceptual revisions due to time and the success of opens staged as live art events. Providing appropriate time and scheduling for the initial youth art courses proved an added challenge for Lange and assistant Elena Katsulis. Lange feels that the art education component is better facilitated through more artist talks / lectures, performances, exhibitions, and art events. For her, art education is not solely limited to art classes; the live art events are experiential art interactions—unique areas for audiences to engage with contemporary art ideas and images in real time. Langue believes that art education functions best through social interaction and exposure. She has found that Dispatch can run more events per year and reach more audiences without the original art school component.
On Saturday October 15th, Dispatch hosted its eighth event entitled Stream of Consciousness,
which was attended by well over 100 people and featured an artistic reading at 7:30 pm., an action by the performance art group KEN at 8:15 pm., and a set by the band Fall Down Trees at 9:15 pm. Upon walking through door, I observed people milling about with hor d’oeuvrs, beer, and wine. The guests examined the curated walls and ceilings adorning the works of 14 local artists. The audience bore witness to multiple performances and shifting perspectives. Lange and Katsulis structure events with an organized agenda. Certain things must take place at specific times throughout the evening. Time and artistic notions of the ephemeral are a constant force at a Dispatch event as well as a focus on contemporary and emergent artists. All performances intentionally allow audiences to derive their own meaning and make self-interpretations; things are intentionally left playful and open-ended. This, I feel, gives Dispatch energy and conceptual credit.
There is something wonderful about organizing an art space for openness. So much of what is encountered artistically, has been constructed for audiences or with a certain audience in mind, I think Dispatch does something different. Although Lange facilitates this well-structured evening behind the scenes, what is out front seems loose and emancipatory. If we believe that art visually communicates and the communication of information is educational, then we must conclude that art sites and spaces can be sites of public pedagogy—a teaching tool and an area to question. If more art spaces, galleries, and museums would liberate audiences and empower them to construct their own meaning, I think something interesting would happen. I think it might be happening at Dispatch.
With visual art experiences and art education at its core, Dispatch is able to maintain its mission by hosting live art events and exhibitions alongside local entertainment. All events are creatively themed and use a three-pronged formula: art performances, curated gallery shows featuring local artists and college art students, along with local entertainment by an area talent. In the future Lange hopes to schedule more talks and lectures.
On Saturday January 28, 2012, Dispatch opens its seasonal show “BLU.” Chicago Artist Resource (CAR) will be hosting an open call on behalf of Dispatch that seeks submissions by local graduate students as well as non-student artists.
Dispatch is located at 1734 W. Cortland Street, Chicago