Spaces: Autotelic

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Andi Crist and Evan Carrison created Autotelic in 2010 as a collaborative space that supports local artists and provides a space for them to build sustainable relationships and practices. In this interview Andi and Evan talk about their vision for Autotelic and, ironically, make their big official announcement!

How did Autotelic come about?

Autotelic happened kind of by chance. We had been friends for several years, worked together and shared interests like art and music, and just happened to be moving out of our respective apartments. We knew a guy that was trying to rent out a storefront, and he cut us a deal to run it as an art space.


What is the mission of Autotelic and has the mission changed now that you are fiscally sponsored?

Since we became a fiscally sponsored nonprofit, we have been able to start thinking about all the things that we could if we just had a little bit of extra money. Right now the space barely runs itself, but we wanted Autotelic to be able to give something to the artists working in the space. With funding, it has the potential to be more than just a space, it can be a facilitator, a support system, something the artists can really fall back on and use.

We hope that our fiscal sponsorship through Fractured Atlas will give Autotelic artists real support, like funding for projects, installations or even emergency help with studio rent. Donations from Chicago supporters will keep the costs low for the artists, and will assist in our build-out of the new location set to open in November 2013. It doesn’t cost a lot to run a space full of people passionate about what they do, but it does cost something.

Autotelic currently acts as a studio for a handful of artists, could you tell us a bit about the artists currently using the space and the role Autotelic plays in their practice?

Currently there are eight artists working at Autotelic. Cramming that many people in our little storefront has incidentally led to some collaboration, and people have to get creative with the space in a community setting like that. Right now, probably the biggest benefit is being in an environment with artists working in a variety of disciplines, and despite the small individual spaces, it’s good for artists to be around other people working in the same field whether they’re trying to break into the market or just find a supportive community of creative thinkers.

Do you feel Autotelic is filling a certain gap in the Chicago art scene or is it expanding on platforms that already exist to help support working artists?

We definitely feel the lack of affordable studio space in our neighborhood. We’ve been at 100% capacity every month since we started a year and a half ago. Not too many artists living around us have the means to rent a shared warehouse space or get an apartment with a spare bedroom, but also, a lot of people don’t really need that much space. Most of the people that work at Autotelic crave a community system that you miss out on when you work in the privacy of your own apartment.

Spaces: Autotelic

What is the Art Box?

ArtBox is what we call the designated exhibition space situated in the front of the studios. It’s somewhat small, but we’re interested in using that space to engage with artists working outside the studio and bringing them inside to meet, collaborate and offer inspiration to the Autotelic community. It’s roughly 10’ x 7’ x 6’ with windows on three of the four walls available for use. We want to see how creative artists can be with the unique three-dimensional space so we encourage everyone to submit an installation proposal.

Do you see the space as part of your creative or artistic practice or is it a separate entity?

It’s separate but essential. Even though our own studio spaces haven’t always been in the same storefront as the rest of the Autotelic artists (our work involves quite a bit of sawdust at times), it’s hard to imagine what our practices would be like without this constant stream of new artists and styles of art-making. It’s easy to lose touch with what’s happening in the art world if you’re not working around other artists or constantly going to openings. There are plenty of galleries already in Chicago and we’re way more interested in the “making” part of art rather than the business aspect of the trade.

What do you see in the future for Autotelic?

This will be our first official announcement: Over the summer we worked with Logan Square property owner and architect Jules Lapkus to design and build a new studio location close to the California blue line stop. One of the biggest issues we’ve faced since opening as a studio in 2012 was accessibility, and we finally got the opportunity to not only move to a busier side of the neighborhood, but also start with a blank-slate storefront that was built specifically with our artists’ needs in mind.

The new Autotelic will reside in what used to be a little bodega at 1856 N. Richmond (Richmond & Cortland). The storefront will house nine individual studios (about 80 sqft each), a ventilated spray booth, a handicap accessible bathroom, a modest wood shop, and a small exhibition space dubbed ArtBox. It’ll be a bittersweet end to the current storefront’s three-year reign as Autotelic in its many forms, but it’s time we stepped up our game and gave the artists the clean, affordable, highly functional work space they deserve. The new Autotelic will open in November 2013 and individual studios will continue to be $150/mo.

Lastly, Do you accept proposals from artists? If so, what kind of proposals do you accept and how can one submit a proposal?

We accept proposals from artists interested in doing installations for ArtBox. Proposals are accepted based on creative use of the windows and the somewhat oddly-shaped three-dimensional space inside. Artists who install work in the ArtBox are invited to give a talk in conjunction with their display, but we are always interested in having working artists come into the studios and speak, collaborate and display work with the Autotelic artists. We’ll also have a great outdoor space if people are interested in having events or construct sculptural works in the yard. We’ve always got an ear to the ground for creative community practices, conceptual installations, and artists keen to clever use of space. To submit a proposal for ArtBox or read up on proposal guidelines, check the submissions page on our site here, or email us with questions or ideas at