Inspired by a “lack of”: The necessity for representation in art

Insights from Jennifer Fagan, The Overlook Place (Logan Square)

“With activist art, women, queer, artists of color, it was still not being represented the way that I thought it should be represented… or at all, really.”

This past May, Jenn Fagan opened The Overlook Place in Logan Square. Although The Overlook has a physical gallery for exhibitions and studio space for artists-in-residence, it’s more than just a “place.” Jenn wasn’t just opening up another art gallery. She was doing what the most successful entrepreneurs have done throughout history: creating a new category.

“I really see The Overlook being a malleable idea. Our mission is that we’re a concept, we’re an opportunity, we’re an idea. … I see it changing with what artists need and with what our political climate needs.”

The open-endedness of The Overlook’s mission is intentional, and it stems from Jenn’s emphasis on the value of experimentation.

“You’re in school, and you can throw things to the wall and see what sticks, but then after that you’re supposed to go be gallery-represented or something crazy like that, and there’s no community in between. So that’s kind of what we’re for.”

For artists seeking to have their work displayed in galleries, the decision can be complicated and require sacrifice, so The Overlook’s residency program offers an opportunity for artists to find that “in between” in an inclusive and supportive community.

“The residency started with the mission of creating a platform and a space for queer women and artists of color … we really want to be an experimental space to foster conversations and emerging artists and kind of be a safe space.”

Another unique quality that The Overlook brings to the art world is being a single place in which different types of artists can come together and express themselves — whether that’s sharing a painting or reading a poem.

“I’m inspired by my friends who are artists, whether they’re visual artists, or musicians, or poets. And I never really saw a place where all of that can come together in one physical space. I think that maybe a ‘lack of’ was my inspiration.”

The “lack of” that Jenn saw went deeper than getting a wide variety of art forms under one roof. The world of fine art still has a long way to go when it comes to gender and racial equity, and Jenn wanted to be part of the change:

“All these creative industries are white male dominated for the most part — if you’re talking about literature, music, visual art — that’s who has the money. … So now I feel like it’s our generation’s responsibility to find new ways to freshen that model, and to make it less systematic and institutionalized and patriarchal.”

The Overlook Place is already three exhibits down within only five weeks. Go check out their current exhibition, "Brotha: Rehumanizing the Dehumanized," up until August 30th, and attend the quarterly ENGAGED event next Saturday.

📍3323 W Armitage Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

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