Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Goodbye to my studio

Guest Blogger:
Abigail Satinsky
one of the founders of InCUBATE

I was asked to blog for Studio Chicago at a transitional moment. The space that I have been collaboratively running for the last year, first housing only InCUBATE and then known as the Orientation Center, is closing December 31, 2009. When I started InCUBATE with my collaborators, we weren’t looking for studio space since we were art administrators and organizers. We were looking for a clubhouse of sorts. A space where we could work out ideas in conversation with each other, with our artists-in-residence, and with people who were just curious about what we were doing. Having what I guess could be called a “studio laboratory,” since it wasn’t entirely a gallery, or an office, or a living space, but somewhere in-between and shared with a rotating crew of people, gave us a resource to offer the community we knew and a community we wanted to get to know.

InCUBATE is a research group dedicated to a better understanding of how the art world works for those doing non-commercial creative work and imagining alternative funding models that could support them and ourselves. It was, and continues to be, a pretty abstract goal with lofty aims but it also manifests in real time and space as we organize exhibitions, publications, lectures, and meals to figure out how to collectively achieve it. One of our most successful projects, Sunday Soup, is a good example of this process. Sunday Soup is a monthly meal that generates money for a creative project fund. Anyone can apply for the fund and we accept proposals up until the day of the meal. Patrons of Sunday Soup pay money for food and a presentation by a local artist or organizer (who most of the time also cooks the soup) and get one vote on which proposal gets the proceeds from the meal. It took us doing the project for a year before anyone really started showing up (except for a couple loyal friends and collaborators). But as we started to find our footing and inviting a stellar cast of people to cook and present (artist Kelly Kaczynski’s borscht combined with critic Lori Waxman’s talk on “Streetwalking in Surrealist Paris” remains a personal favorite), we found a steady audience. And the people who came to eat with us started their own Sunday Soups in far-flung places like New York City FEAST, Baltimore STEW, Portland Stock, Newcastle Saturday Soup, Buffalo Sugar City Sunday Soup, and one starting in Iowa City called FATS (Funding Artists through Soup). Their spaces (which most of the time are larger than our small storefront) have managed to bring new communities together to meet each other in real time and given away much more money for local artists than we could do from here. We are really proud to be a part of that growing network.

But it occurred to me that having that physical space where we went to scheme with friends for hours, meet people coming through town who wanted to hear what was up with under-the-radar culture in Chicago, play darts, brew beer, talk with the fine folks of AREA Chicago and Chicago Underground Library who rented space there as well, and host lectures and activities, we created a rather idiosyncratic community of fellow travelers. It was those encounters, ones that were unexpected, sweet, awkward, short-lived, or became lasting friendships built over time and shared proximity, which is going to make me really miss 2129 N. Rockwell.

So without getting overly sentimental, and since it is a New Year for new beginnings, I wanted to share my top ten happenings at the Orientation Center, in no particular order. This is for artists that used our space as a studio, as headquarters, or just to get together.

1. Talk by Gerald Raunig visiting from Vienna via New York
(author: Art and Revolution:Transversal Activism in the Long Twentieth Century) with Dan S. Wang, as part of the Midwest Radical Cultural Corridor Drift, June 2008

 (It was so hot in there, the lecture was moved onto the sidewalk)
Photo by Claire Pentecost

2. Hideous Beast’s Juice This!, July 2008

Photo by Charlie Roderick

3. The speakeasy and music show by Cains & Abels in the back alley of our space, August 2009

4. Anne Elizabeth Moore’s Unlympics, February 2009


5. The first Public Culture Lecture, Co-organized with Randall Szott, May 2009: “The Lyceum and Public Culture in the Nineteenth Century United States,” by Angela Ray, a professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Northwestern University

Photo by Bryce Dwyer

6. Carnal Torpor’s Dualing Workshop in October 2009 (while they were in town for participating in the Heartland Exhibition at the Smart Museum), October 2009

Photo by Bryce Dwyer

7. Michael Coolidge’s Free Bowl Excursions on the City of Chicago, May 2009

Photo by Eric Bartholomew

8. Los Cago Open House Bridge of Artistic Goodwill, March 2008

A meeting of artistic minds with the intention of bridging the geographic gap between Los Angeles and Chicago.

Los Cago Open House Bridge of Artistic Goodwill from InCUBATE on Vimeo.

9. Maggie Haas’s Mine, September 2007

10. Ending with the beginning.

Here are some pictures of our early floor plan and starting the space with our friend, Ben Schaafsma, who passed away in October 2008.

Abigail Satinsky is one of the founding members of InCUBATE.


  1. Wow, full of Chicago homes memories. It must be hard to move out. I wish you well in all your endeavors. Thanks for sharing an amazing experience here.

  2. So many creative and strong projects, so much energy, a great space that incubated great strategies. Thanks Abigail!

  3. Totally inspiring, Abby! Thanks for posting!