6018 N. Kenmore
An Interview by Anastasia Duka with Kirsten Leenaars, member of the 6018NORTH Board and the THREEWALLS Board
Q: When 6018NORTH first opened?
A: Tricia Van Eck, after leaving the MCA where she was working as an Associate Curator for 13 years, she focused and started working on 6018NORTH. She actually lives on the same street, a couple of blocks away. The space had its very first public opening on May 2011. Before that there was a series of events that were by invitation only.
Q: What is the history of the building?
A: The place originally belonged to a German family. Tricia always admired its architecture and character,- it stands out in the neighborhood- and at 2010 she learned that they were planning to sell the lot and the house to a condominiums’ contractor. That was an insane decision, since the building was already characterized as a landmark by the Historical Architecture Society of Chicago. Tricia started discussing with the current owner at the time, the possibility to buy the place. Fortunately enough, the owner was finally convinced and by the end of that year Tricia bought the place. The first months we organized a series of dinners, one every other month. The dinners were by invite only and not open to the public, since the building was not certified as sound in order to be run as a regular gallery space.
Q: Who was invited to these dinners?
A: Writers, art critics, a few artists. The first dinners were hosted under a specific theme or subject, trying to encourage an open discussion. It didn’t work out that well, so the following dinners were far more successful since there was no theme, people reacted spontaneously and the atmosphere allowed more interesting discussions to happen. The dinners were catered, and they always took place at the first floor. This is why there is still that big, long dining table there in the living room.
Q: What was the first event open to the public?
A: After these dinners, Tricia invited me to present my project that I was just resuming at the time, the MCA SOAP OPERA. The project had begun as part of the exhibition “Without You I’m Nothing: Art and its Audience,” where I produced soap opera episodes based on real-life drama that was filmed on location using MCA staff and visitors as the core actors and extras. By May 2011 I had finished the last episodes, and we decided to organize a show to present the series. That was actually the first public event for 6018 NORTH.
Q: And the next projects?
A: We next hosted the ‘Happiness’ project. The Happiness Project articulated the potential of how the right to pursue happiness if applied to work, life, and governmental decisions, could transform the city and the well being of its inhabitants. It emphasized the need for artists and the public to enrich policy discussions and inform Chicagoans that communal participation and engagement can have a positive effect on Chicago’s vitality and well-being. We collaborated with different groups of people, from musicians and composers to kids from elementary schools, we held workshops and presentations.After the Happiness project, we had the show called “Home: Private or Public?”. For this project a great number of artists contributed. It was the first time that we used all 3 floors of the mansion. We are currently hosting an exchange and exhibition between students from from SAIC (School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago) and from CCS (College for Creative Studies, Detroit), exploring what it means to have a sense of place and belonging.
Q: What are the future plans of 6018 NORTH and how do you raise money for the projects and the expenses of the space?
A: This April, we are planning a full renovation of the mansion. After the Happiness project, the basement and the first floor flooded. We have asked architecture students from ITT, to contribute with their proposals for a renovation that applies to a green and sustainable design. We are part of the Edgewater Community Council that favors self initiated action within communities and neighborhoods. The Happines project was funded by the PropellerFund organization, and we are also subsidized by the Graham Foundation. For our future projects, we hope to partner with artists, community leaders, organizers, thought leaders, and entrepreneurs. 6018NORTH hopes to bring together individuals and groups from diverse fields to discuss and employ art and ideas.