As a quick introduction for you and your work, for those who may be unaware – you have been
described as a “storytelling creative artist.” Do you feel this title is appropriate, given your work?
Yes, one hundred percent. I have background in theater from Columbia College in Chicago and although
I didn’t take the path of…performance, like live performance, I have taken the path of more production
work, like behind the scenes. I always make sure that anything I involve myself with has a storyline,
whether it’s something that’s very personal to me, or speaks to my ideals, I always want that to be
relayed to the audience so they can follow along to the constant that’s being displayed.
What are you working on currently?
So I am a person who loves music, and there are a lot of songs I hear that touch me personally, and I feel
like it needs to be expressed in a visual format. Obviously I can’t make music videos for a lot of these
songs due to legal issues, but I definitely want to have some type of…like my own personal twist, so I can
have these short films that I can have that I can just release. There are around five to seven songs that
I’ve picked out, and for each song there will be a short film to reflect, essentially, what came to my
mind. I do plan to release that album November 2018, but right now I have to take kind of a hiatus
because I’m working with a lot of my friends who are emerging artists to get their work out, too. I feel
like we have a lot of resources here in Chicago that aren’t being utilized, because of the simple fact that
nobody knows about them. So I do want to push other artists to kind of like do their own thing; I think
that whole, ‘don’t think about it’ thing should be your overall goal. Like, of course plan, but don’t over-
plan, just go for it mentality is really important. So that’s in the works, like I said, November 2018…get
up and do it, essentially [laughs].
Watching ELEMENT OF LIFE on Youtube, I felt it was a beautiful, poignant love letter to life and
motion. What was your inspiration for creating this film?
To be honest with you, I started to get into film, so I just decided to dive in and see what would happen.
I did a little research, purchased a camera and went like, “okay, you made this $400 purchase…might as
well put it to use!”
So whenever I had the chance, I would just walk around, carry my camera with me everywhere I went
and recording different aspects of Chicago. Essentially, when I walked around I would see things that I
maybe wouldn’t notice if I was by myself, because I could be in my own thoughts. I would…allow myself
to be present wherever I was, whether I was, you know, on a street or in a park or it was nighttime or
wherever the case may be…there was something different about, you know, you’re seeing other
people’s lives kind of playing themselves out while you’re just taking it in, recording in the moment. So it
was definitely one of those, ‘don’t think about it, just do it and see what happens’ things.
It was my first piece of work, so…[laughs] I really just wanted to make sure this is something I wanted to
do, without overthinking it.
The voiceover piece was actually a theater piece that I wrote in college and I didn’t know what I was
going to do with that. I wanted to do like a solo performance with that stage and I never picked it up
again until literally last year, so it was like years before I had even picked up the lyrics, the words of the
piece and decide play it over a montage of different parts of Chicago.
What are you passionate about?
Most importantly, I’m passionate about giving a voice to people who don’t have one. I mean, I was one
of those kids who felt they couldn’t speak up, because ‘I’m a kid’, and ‘if there’s an adult in the room you
listen to them, regardless if they’re right or wrong’, and I saw how that affected my life, so my goal is to
show people that, regardless of your age, you can speak up for yourself. You can say, ‘I’m not
comfortable with this’ if you feel that way. You don’t need an explanation, you should speak up for
What brought you to FSC?
I currently live in a 3-bedroom apartment with my girlfriend, her brother and our six-year- old daughter,
so there’s always a lot of chaos going on in the house [laughs]. I was looking for a place where I could
essentially…go there and just work, but also somewhere I could be around other artists who may not be
doing exactly the same thing I’m doing, but it’s a motivational influence. Like, you walk in and you see
somebody working, you see what they’re doing and you’re like, ‘yeah, I should be doing my stuff, too!’
I did some research and there are a bunch of different artist spaces throughout Chicago, but the Fulton
Collective definitely stuck out to me. For one, it was close – it’s literally less than 30 minutes from my
job. And on top of that, when I did the tour it wasn’t like, ‘sales pitch sales pitch sales pitch’, it was like,
‘this is what we have to offer. Whether you decide to do a studio with us or not, we definitely love to
have artists collaborate with us, period.’ It made me feel welcome. It was definitely a warm feeling of
like, ‘you are included in this, regardless of what you do. Just as long as you’re an artist and you’re
willing to support other people, too, and you’re okay with the artist community.’ It was this feeling of ‘all
are welcome’, so that was it.
Do you have any influences – artists, people in your personal life, anyone like that? Someone who
Yeah, I definitely have a few people who are an inspiration to me. Top 3 off the top of my head would be
first, my father, because he was the kid from the projects in Indiana who probably didn’t have anything
going for him – and now he’s a commander in the United States army. He has this huge success behind
him, and he’s also this huge fitness guru. Then Aba Devine – she started filmmaking at 32. She’s a sign
you can do anything no matter how old you are or how much knowledge you have on that one thing, as
long as you just get up and go do it. And Lena Waithe, because she essentially started from nothing as
well – she just took a pen and paper and said, ‘I’m gonna make this happen’, and used all her resources,
whatever she could, and she made it happen. So yeah, top 3, that’s it.
If you could live in any part of the world – besides Chicago, obviously – where would you choose to
plant your roots?
If I could live anywhere in the country…I love Chicago, deeply, but honestly something about Canada,
Montreal to be specific – it’s something that’s like, I feel my spirit called to that area. I mean, granted,
you could get greenery anywhere, you can get kind of that city life anywhere, but I think it’s something
different, and it would challenge me to learn a new language, to do things a little bit differently, because
their government runs things a little differently – I think Montreal, Canada would be the place to go.
Say there were no limitations whatsoever…be they financial, time-based, geography based, access to
equipment, actors, etc…what would you do with limitless possibilities? If you could do anything with
your work, where would you take it?
I would take it globally. I was an army kid; I’ve seen most of the United States. When I was a kid, we
moved around a lot, so I’ve seen just about everything the U.S. has to offer. I’ve always wanted to
become more exposed to different types of cultures and different types of people throughout the world.
So if I could, I would become…a travelling event coordinator. I would pick up people from all over.
Americans would take like a world tour, you know – London, China, Germany, anywhere you can think
of that’s outside of America, we would take it and essentially do events at any venue that would have
us, regardless of how big it is, how small it is, who’s there, and just essentially enjoy the moment and
enjoy our passion. And I would love to pick up artists from all over the world and just have them travel,
because I think it’s important to be exposed to different things – different food, different views,
different cultures. I would take care of things like transportation, or where we’re going to stay, can we
afford this person, can we afford that – just travel the world, perform what you want to perform, do
what you love without having to think, ‘when I get home will I still have a house? Will I have to pay X Y
Z?’ so that we could get together as a group of people who are like-minded so we can just…explore.
Youtube Channel: Carnival Studios (goo.gl/1ycKAr)
By Matt Raebel
The annual Holiday Market event at Fulton Street Collective’s 3rd floor Hubbard St. loft on December 19th had an excellent turnout, in terms of both artists and patrons. So much so, a few of the artists had to set up in the hallway outside the main area. It was more packed than a farmer’s market on a sunny Saturday morning.
FSC’s own Martin Aspera ran deals on photo sessions all night. This led to, much to my delight, numerous amiable dogs attending the event with their human friends.
Fulton Street Collective’s Holiday Market proved an excellent solution for many last-minute Christmas shoppers. As usual, the event was packed with wonderful visual art, but there was much more than that.
In addition to beautiful paintings, crafts and sculptures, vendors sold baked goods, stickers, artisanal lotions, custom temporary tattoos, keychains, original poetry, and more. Empanada Bike, a local independent vendor, was parked outside our entrance selling fresh empanadas for those who were hungry, and the cash bar provided beer, wine, soda and bottled water for those who were thirsty.
Patrons supported the arts by purchasing pieces all night, while artists supported each other. Throughout the night, I saw artists chatting, laughing and exchanging cards. I heard discussions about working with different media, discussions about influences, marketing, and plenty of friendly talk not related to art as well. There was a station set up so patrons could draw and create mosaics if they felt so inclined.
If I hadn’t finished my Christmas shopping, I probably would’ve picked up some tasty treats from Little Grand Cakery, or maybe a sweet wine bottle stand crafted by Donzell Gorden.
But then, I suppose there’s always next year!
~ By: Matt Raebel 2017
Did you know that December 2nd is National Samba Day?
Last Saturday, December 2nd, Fulton Street Collective had the privilege of hosting the incredibly talented singer-actress Dill Costa, one of the foremost experts in samba in Chicago, as well as her equally superb band, on behalf of the Brazilian Cultural Center of Chicago. Together, they treated assembled guests to a two hour long set consisting of classic Samba songs from the past and present.
The band consisted of featured guest guitarist and singer João Poupard, John Beard on 7-string guitar, David Chelimsky on the cavaquinho (a Brazilian 4-stringed instrument), and Reed Flygt on percussion. Together, this ensemble blew away the audience with a mellow, up-beat sound that is not commonly found in the frozen recesses of the Windy City…the sound of Samba.
I had no idea what qualified as “Samba” before attending the concert, so I was giddy to enjoy the experience as educational as well as entertaining. First of all, over half the audience was on their feet the whole time. There were some who preferred to just groove their own way, but there were also skilled samba dancers attending as well; I don’t think I can recall a time I saw a person move their feet so quickly and smoothly that wasn’t in a Youtube video. It was definitely an event that encouraged audience participation, but expertise or even familiarity in this particular form of music was certainly not required.
The sound of samba I found to be surprisingly pleasant, in that it was upbeat, but in an easygoing way. I was familiar with South American music before through salsa and tango, so I expected a lot more “electricity”; Costa explained to the audience during an interlude that Samba’s main quality is positivity, but that it can be more mellow and easygoing than other South American styles. In this way, samba attempts to create a mellower, more complex flavor of sound, with a smooth curve of entry for newcomers.
From the start, the atmosphere was totally positive; Costa made quite an entrance, singing and dancing through the audience from the back of the room to the stage. Every one of her movements included a happy little bit of flair of some kind, from putting on her glasses to belting out longer notes. There wasn’t a moment she didn’t have a huge, warm smile on her face, and she wasn’t the only one. The rest of the band seemed to enjoy themselves just as much, as did the audience.
Fulton Street Collective thanks Dill Costa, João Poupard, John Beard, David Chelimsky, Reed Flygt, and the Brazilian Cultural Center of Chicago for entertaining us all night, and bringing a bit of South American sunshine to our cold winter streets. Saúde!
~ Matt Raebell, 2017
Fulton Street Collective’s Holly Eckwejunor-Etchie put on her first solo exhibition last Friday, and it was a blast.
The atmosphere was intensely positive; you could feel it as soon as you walked through the front door. The floor is fairly sizable, yet throughout the night, it was consistently full of people. Among them were a number of the artist’s friends and family, as well as a number of other warm, funny characters I had the pleasure of meeting. Holly and her family also provided a huge spread of delicious food and locally-made wine and beer for their very appreciative guests.
Every single wall in the room was full of Holly’s work, including some very recent additions to her portfolio. Much of her work consists of oil paintings of surreal, distorted human figures. Each one harbors incredible depth; each one seems to have their own story. A few of the guests I spoke to lent me their interpretation of each, and in every case, I was pleasantly surprised to find they had interpreted the piece in question from an entirely different angle than I had initially considered.
There was one piece I kept coming back to – it seemed to be a figure of a man with small, beady eyes and long, claw-like fingers. My first impression was that the piece invoked malice and, according to Holly, I was not the only one to have made that conclusion. Something about it drew me back though, and after looking more closely at its eyes, I saw the figure differently…it seemed to convey a furtive vulnerability which I found deeply moving.
Holly’s non-character pieces were equally evocative. One in particular, titled “Reluctant Soul”, had people crowded around it all night. “Maya and the Houses”, one of her more recent pieces, was also on display; it’s an interesting piece that explores feelings of place and identity, and how the two are related.
All in all, the event was a hit. If you’d like to see more of Holly’s work, you can check out her website, hollyekwejunor-etchie.com, or visit her Instagram page @etchiestudio.
Fulton Street Collective and Art in Common Cause use art to fight de-funding of crucial organizations
Isn’t it the best when you get to do something that makes a difference, and you have a great time doing it?
Art in Common Cause is a benefit organization that seeks to support nonprofit organizations as well as artists by creating pop-up benefit exhibitions. Participating artists get to choose which organization they wish to support, and proceeds from the sale of their selected works go to that organization. It’s a win-win for them because, in addition to contributing to worthy causes, it’s a great opportunity for local creators to get exposure.
On October 27th, they chose Fulton Street Collective’s space at 1821 Hubbard Street to unveil their “Unpresidented: Chicago Edition” benefit exhibition. There was a fantastic turnout, with admirers and artists alike, both FSC-affiliated and unaffiliated, rubbing elbows and having lively discussions about the eye-catching pieces and the causes they would support. I had the pleasure of meeting a few of the featured artists that night, including Sam Farchione, a bold political satirist, and Lisa Goesling, whose work was recently featured at Dittmar Gallery in Evanston, IL. Other featured artists included Nancy Rosen, Jane Barthès, Ellen Greene, Fotios Zemenides, Dominic Sansone, Linda Rivera, James Deeb, and Gunjan Kumar…and that only scratches the surface of all the exceptionally talented artists who contributed to the night.
Creators of all types came out to show Art in Common Cause and FSC love; writers, actors, critics…there was no shortage of thoughtful, passionate people to talk to. The event continued the next day, Saturday, and then again on Sunday.
Overall, the event was a tremendous success. Art in Common Cause is still calculating exactly how much money was raised for non-profits in need, but one thing’s certain: this fun, positive event will have contributed tremendously to supporting crucial social, environmental, and economic organizations on a local and national level.
1821 Hubbard Street’s Open House a rousing success
I had never been to an open house like the one at the Hubbard Street building, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I suppose I thought it would be more of a low-key meet and greet, a chance for artists to rub shoulders with each other for the evening, as well as with the greater Chicagoland art-loving population. I expected to see pieces I hadn’t seen before – pieces still in progress, and to have the chance to talk process with Fulton Street Collective members and more.
I got what I wanted, but I also got to appreciate one of Chicago’s best-kept secrets: the 1821 Hubbard Street building’s annual open house.
Each year, the Fulton Street Collective and the rest of the design studios and creative groups that share the building open their doors to the public. Every floor is packed with unique art across all sorts of media. Nearly every space included finished pieces, in-progress work still being brought to life, local artists eager to share…not to mention, ample places to refill one’s wine glass. Recent contributors Donzell Gordon and Daniel James Johnson, as well as guitarist Tony Richards, occupied the main floor. In the studio area, FSC members turned their treasured creative sanctuaries into friendly hangouts full of conversation between the artist and art consumer. Business cards disappeared just as fast out of one’s card holders as new ones were acquired. Sometimes, business and pleasure do mix.
Besides the third floor situation, the second and third floors were just as lively. Every space showcased the best of the best pieces their artists had produced. Packs of event-goers stood discussing them for hours. Some areas even included supplies where attendees could create their own masterpieces. I spoke with dozens of artists that night, and while everyone was having a great time in their respective ares, quite a few throughout the building remarked how eager they felt to explore the rest of the building. Everybody was excited to see what the other creators in the building had been working on and hang out with them.
To cap off the evening, design studio Almost Gold converted their space into a dope nightclub for the evening, complete with multiple live deejays, a wine and beer bar, a nacho bar, and private spaces to have a conversation or take a break for a moment.
I’ll say this – last Friday, the 20th, was my first time at a Hubbard Street Open House, and I’ve already marked my calendar for next year’s open house. Be sure to follow FSC on Twitter, @FSC_Chicago for more details – or check out www.fultonstreetcollective.com/events for more info, especially for upcoming events closer to today on the calendar.
Fulton Street Collective’s monthly 3rd Floor Market featured several local artists this past Tuesday. This month’s lineup included Daniel James Johnson, Zitlali Yunuhem, Zoe Mikel-Stites, Renata Maliszewski, Ellyn Lynn, and Donzell Gordon. Musician Tony Richards filled the hall with jazz guitar licks and delicious entrees by Chutney Devis were devoured by hungry attendees. New creators, as well as veterans of all ages, brought a nuanced array of captivating original, abstract, and surreal visual art, including innovative crafts and sculptures like beaded mosaic pieces, gravity-defying handmade wine bottle stands, traditional ethnic art with a contemporary twist – and even more.
Mattew Raebell, FSC Digital Copywriter Intern
When I see a movie, I tend to go for ones that I can watch again and again and get a different experience each time. The same goes for abstract art…or, art on any medium, really. A piece with true depth is one that compels you to stare at it until you’ve lost track of time, because the image itself presents a mystery, a story that seduces one’s intrigue. So it is with the striking abstract work of Paul Filipi, a local Chicago artist who presented at FSC’s Monday night pop-up session earlier this week.
Most of his works on display at FSC last Monday depicted humanoid figures…some of which looked like they were unraveling at the seams, while others invoked impressions of H.R. Geiger-esque beings from beyond the stars. Then again, that’s merely one interpretation. I found myself going back to pieces I’d already admired at length, discovering new details that completely spun my original perspective of the piece in a new direction. When I spoke to Paul, he was happy to discuss his work, but not to boast. He enjoys seeing others enjoy his work. “I always try to leave things abstract, so they’re more open to interpretation,” he said. Isn’t it more fun that way?
Mattew Raebell, FSC Digital Copywriter Intern