Andi Crist cofounded and currently is the studio manager of Autotelic Studios, which houses studios for visual artists and writers, and Crist in 2014 acquired a second building in Logan Square.
The term “autotelic” was first used in the early 20th century, and it refers to any self-directed activity or creative act. Indeed, this term aptly characterizes the modern artist, who often chooses their own purpose and subject matter, as opposed to the traditional artist from earlier times who worked to fulfill the needs of religious and political authorities and institutions.
The new Autotelic space almost completely filled up soon after it opened; only a few desk spaces remain for writers and artists who do not need a large work and storage area. Indeed, virtually all the rooms and areas of a former two-story church have transformed into art studio spaces. That includes the front- and rear-enclosed porch areas, as well as the basement space that five artists share. In addition, the garage in the rear of the building offers resident artists a woodshop, and anyone interested in pursuing woodworking projects can sign up to become a member and use this woodshop. With its residential building, Autotelic differs from many large art studio spaces, which are often housed in former industrial factories and warehouses and are subdivided into smaller spaces with drywall and offer a minimal number of amenities.
When I visited Crist with staff photographer Elisa Fritz on a recent early Wednesday evening, we met and briefly talked to a number of artists busy working in their studios. From Crist, I learned that the plan for Autotelic began when when she was leasing on a storefront art-living space and started to consider providing a large venue for other artists and share it with them. Crist connected with a leasing company that owned a number of properties in the Logan Square and Avondale area that could readily serve as art spaces.
She worked with the leasing company in a collaborative effort to design the spaces and keep the cost low. Her contributions helped the landlord save money, she said, as it wasn’t necessary for them to have upscale finishings. “We just need a clean, dry, warm place to make our work,” she said. Crist worked with the leasing company in two building conversions, first one on 1856 N. Richmond St., and then more recently another one on 3551 W. Diversey Ave.
On the first floor of the Diversey building — referred to as Autotelic West — the large, open room that spans the length of the building was formerly used as a church space. Now it’s subdivided into a series of studio spaces partitioned by 4-foot-high drywall that provides some privacy. In the first studio, we found Nicole Cherry working on evocative papier-mâché sculptures that evoke the body and have unusual surface textures and colors. To store and work on more life-size sculptures, Cherry maintains a second studio workspace.
At the end of the semi-open room, we visited the shared studio of Alba Margarita and George Lindmark who share their studio room, each taking up about one half of the space. They also share an interest in figurative painting. Lindmark is a working artist who has more than 25 years of experience in a variety of fields and jobs.
In the rear of the studio space we met Madeleine (Matti) Lowery, whose large Crayola art piece covers the rear wall from ceiling to floor on long sheets of paper that each contain a color one Crayola marker used to make marks until it ran out of ink.
At the opposite end of the hall, we met Kailyn Perry, who created a mural on the gray wall and door. Perry, a painter from Boston, made a point of finding a nearby studio art space when she moved to Logan Square for convenience and to meet other artists in a new city. She actually has a space at the Richmond Autotelic building, but she was paying a visit to Autotelic West during my tour.
We proceeded to the second floor, where the entire space resembles more of its original residential use with a living room — now a community room — a washroom and a kitchen. We first met Rebecca Shoenecker in a converted porch area that offers lots of natural light. She reads tarot cards by appointment, and she has created her own illustrated deck of tarot cards. She shares the space with Teresa Principe.
We stopped in what looked like a former bedroom space, where Benjamin Madeska took a few minutes from a painting of Lake Michigan on an easel, one of a series of paintings that exhibit lighting from different times of day. An older series of his paintings features food that he eventually ate.
We met Ali Noe in another space that looked like a former bedroom. Noe describes herself as a large-scale installation artist, and she is also the woodshop manager and director of facilities at Autotelic. In the woodshop, she showed us a beehive that she was in the process of making herself.
We then met Jennifer Kaplan, who has a ceramic studio in an enclosed rear porch space. Kaplan makes both functional ceramic work and creative pieces. For example, she made curvy containers that hold salt and that are reminiscent of Japanese gardens on a small scale.
Finally, after a stop at the woodshop, we ventured into the basement where two groups of artists share the space. We met and talked to Meghen Fueston, who operates The Bus Shop, a mobile vintage clothing and accessory store in a bus, along with her friend Lindsay Betland. Autotelic provides them with storage and office space. Along with another group of screen-print artists and a painter, they form a larger group called the Coven; the other artists include Sara Douglas, Jesy Grose, Devin Owsley-Aquilia and Christine Ciarleglio.
Crist had almost finished her own wood-working project: a bar stand for a new event space, In House, where Crist will set up her own office-studio space and share it with two other groups, The Chicago Perch and Candor. In the space on 3520 W. Armitage St., In House will offer a larger space and more flexibility for Autotelic artists and exhibits. Events will still be held at Autotelic.
On Saturday, June 11, an event featuring multiple artists will be at both Autotelic locations in the afternoon and evening, followed by a late-night after party at In House.