Threewalls was founded in 2003 to provide support and visibility for the visual arts community in Chicago. The founders wanted to encourage a greater awareness of Chicago’s art scene by inviting emerging professional artists to share in the city’s rich histories, resources, and creative communities. Over the past fifteen years, Threewalls has been a center for artist-focused programming, critical writing, and direct support for artist projects.
Threewalls transitioned from a bricks-and-mortar gallery to an itinerant model in early 2016 in response to contemporary discourse about the intersections of art, social justice, and community. We continue to support artists and collaborative projects, especially those that are best presented outside of traditional art spaces, thereby expanding the discourse around contemporary art presentation and exhibition, and breaking down walls to contemporary art that are firmly in place in so many communities.
Today, we host artists interested in working in and with diverse Chicago communities through our RaD Lab program, support interactive work by local and regional artists in Outside the Walls, and program salons to generate open dialogue, the presentation of new ideas, and the publication of new writing. Threewalls partners with other organizations on exhibitions, publications, and education programs in an effort to broaden and contribute to the contemporary visual arts.
Threewalls fosters contemporary art practices that respond to lived experiences, encouraging connections beyond art.
The Four Prongs of our Work
Space: We want to conceptually, physically and philosophically expand the discourse around contemporary art presentation and exhibition—from three walls to the fourth wall to breaking down the walls. This is where itinerancy comes into play as our presentation model.
Community accessibility: We want to present contemporary art in such a way that makes it accessible intellectually and physically in everyday life. Of the many ways to accomplish this, there are two ways that we currently focus on:
-Being mobile and taking it to neighborhoods, community spaces, and places of work that make the engagement with art more accessible
-Including the audience in the process from the very beginning of the research phase
Racial inclusivity: Given that Chicago is comprised of 2/3 people of color, we are dedicated to the organization and its work reflecting a diverse Chicago, which means supporting more artists of color, recruiting staff and board members of color, and providing leadership opportunities, as well as providing creative, critical and vendor opportunities. We are also committed to being racially and ethnically inclusive with respect to our audience. This is an extremely important aspect of the model of working with artists and communities where they live and work.
Value of art|artmaking|artist|creative process: We all know that the commodification of contemporary art, whether visual, performing or any other form, distorts its deeper value. This model challenges the commodity value placed on art and expands its value beyond the monetary. Additionally, this model centers artists, processes and people with the intent of demonstrating the impact of art on our daily lives and expanding the discourse on our lives, which are socially, politically and culturally nuanced.
Art connecting segregated communities, people, and experiences together.
Collaboration: We value the practice of collaboration with our nonprofit peers, artists, community leaders, and others who are inspired to use art as a catalyst for change. We believe that without true collaboration, real change through the arts cannot happen.
Respect for Process: We believe that supporting process over time is integral to artistic and creative practices as well as relationship-building.
Risk: We are committed to providing an environment that embraces risk, with the understanding that this is where the most fruitful and successful art and relationships are born.
Celebrating Difference: We believe that it is our responsibility to reflect not only Chicago’s racial, ethnic and cultural diversity but our society at large. In this vein, we believe that racial and ethnic inclusivity in addition to cultural equity is germane to our work.
Devin Mathews, President
Chiblie Coleman, Treasurer
Blue Cross Blue Shield
Colin D. Lord, Vice President
Founder & CEO
New Ivy Consultants
Patti Gilford Fine Arts
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
Senior Vice President
Sotheby’s Midwest Chicago