IRVING PARK — Artist and professor Nick Cave plans to open an art studio across the street from Carl Schurz High School — and he wants Irving Park residents to feel welcome at the studio.
Cave, an interdisciplinary artist who works in sculpture, installation, performance and video, is best known for his soundsuits — wearable fabric sculptures that fully conceal the body and act as a second skin that obscures race, gender and class. Once renovations on the building at 3618-3622 N. Milwaukee Ave. are complete, the studio’s programming will likely start in late fall, according to Bob Faust, an artist in Cave’s studio and special projects director.
Cave bought the 23,000-square-foot building in 2014 with the intent of turning the building into a shared studio, gallery and apartment where he can live and work.
“The building had been vacant for a while and we went through a zoning change several years ago for them for this project,” said Owen Brugh, chief of staff to Ald. John Arena (45th).
Laura Marie Sanchez, who lives in Irving Park and is familiar with the building’s history, said in the 1920s the address housed a confectionery and an auto parts store.
“The building itself is being called Facility, because it’s about the facilitation of young artists and a body being a facility for ourselves,” Faust said. Faust frequently collaborates with Cave on projects.
One of their most recent collaborations was a kaleidoscopic mural from one of Cave’s soundsuits “constructed entirely of woven bags collected from around the world” for the mainstage of New York Live Arts, and arts organization, according to artdaily.com.
The soundsuits “originated as metaphorical suits of armor in response to the Rodney King beatings and have evolved into vehicles for empowerment,” according to Cave’s portfolio.
Cave’s work was also featured in the “Chicago” episode of PBS’s Peabody Award-winning series “Art in the Twenty-First Century.” He also is a Stephanie and Bill Sick Professor of Fashion, Body and Garment at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC).
“The Facility name also harkens back to that whole idea of Warhol’s factory, but trying to put it into the idea of human engagement for everyone,” Faust said.
A permit Cave filed with the city on Nov. 1, 2017 shows the interior of the first floor is being remodeled into a “private artist workspace.” An additional permit he filed with the city on Sept. 5 says the building’s second floor is being remodeled into apartments.
In addition to being Cave’s new workspace, the building will also house Faust’s design studio. In the meantime, neighbors are being asked to contribute to a street-facing art installation titled “Love Thy Neighbor.” To contribute, people who live or frequent the Irving Park area around the studio are being asked to handwrite their first name on a name tag and embellish it with their own design.
“These name tags will be affixed to the window with tiny suction cups and be a billboard someone can see from across the street,” Faust said. “It’ll be a pretty elaborate installation and the idea is people will learn about the building while we set it up and get some programming together.”
Once enough people contribute, the building’s storefront windows on Milwaukee Avenue will have 10,000 name tags arranged to spell out the phrase “Love Thy Neighbor.” Faust hopes people who contribute to the project will design the name tag in a way that’s reflective of who they are as a person.
Anyone who would like to contribute to the project can visit a number of places in the Irving Park neighborhood and Six Corners Shopping District to customize a name tag with their name.
“The first place I reached out to was the alderman’s office. We have about 200 tags with them” Faust said. “They helped me reach out to a number of schools in the area who wanted to get on board. I also reached out to the Six Corners Association and they’ve connected me with a number of businesses. Today I’m dropping off these little kits for a few of them.”
The name tags can be found at:
• Jesse the Barber, 4851 W. Irving Park Rd.
• Josies, 4032 N. Milwaukee Ave.
• Frunchroom, 4042 N. Milwaukee Ave.
• The Office of Ald. John Arena (45th), 4754 N. Milwaukee Ave.