Introducing AMFM x The Other Art Fair
The Game Changers. The Rule Breakers. The Innovators. Discover some of the fantastic emerging talent showcasing their work at The Other Art Fair.
The Other Art Fair are thrilled to announce our online feature with partner AMFM who where due to exhibit work at our postponed Chicago spring edition. AMFM is a brand for artists and people that supports emerging and established artists by offering a platform through web content, curated events, and collaborations. AMFM hosts events combining the arts to cultivate community, diversity, inclusivity, intergenerational engagement and, of course, good vibes.
Features are an important part of The Other Art Fair and since we couldn’t showcase these artists in person we are delighted to showcase 10 talented AMFM artists on the Online Studios. We interviewed AMFM founder Ciera McKissick to learn more about AMFM, the artists and the Chicago Arts community.
AMFM at the 2019 edition of The Other Art Fair Chicago
How did AMFM start?
AMFM was founded in 2009 back when I was in my senior year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It was an independent project that I started while studying journalism and mass communications for my major and writing for the school music magazine, Emmie. I’ve always had a love for magazines, the arts and writing and wanted to find a way to marry those things together. Working for the school magazine was dope but we were writing about artists who had already “made it,” and I wanted to focus on emerging artists, people I knew who I believed in, and hoped some day would “make it” too. I decided to use this platform to highlight those types of artists. AMFM initially stood for art, music, fashion magazine. They were, and still are, the three main categories of focus.
How has AMFM evolved over the years?
AMFM has evolved a lot over the years and still is. When I first started AMFM I had no idea it would be what it is today. After school ended, I moved out to Cali and sort of found myself in another community of thriving emerging artists and I wanted to highlight them, so I resurrected AMFM and made a special Sacramento Issue. When I moved back to Milwaukee a couple years later, I re-designed the website and did a Milwaukee Issue, and when I was spending a lot of time in Detroit, I did a Detroit Issue. I was looking for next moves after being home for a few years and wanted to come to Chicago for a bit. When I got here I started meeting the community of artists here and what was supposed to be a year stint has turned into nearly six. Back when I was in Milwaukee, I was doing events combining music and art and had wanted to take a stab at doing it in Chicago, a larger city. I curated a few art shows and was working out of a couple spaces, one in Pilsen called Cultura in Pilsen and one in Wicker Park called HQ. Then I became known for doing these pop up events all around the city, particularly with an event called The Jazz Series, that was a solo art exhibition and music showcase that would travel to different spaces every month. We popped up everywhere from galleries to cool stores, and even the Stony Island Arts Bank, Soho House and the Chicago Art Department, where I was a resident artist for a year and was hosting large scale and conceptual AMFM events.
I left the Chicago Art Department in 2016 to open up AMFM Gallery. I was wanting to have more autonomy over space, overhead, and do more, so I was really excited when we got our first space, which we crowdfunded on GoFundMe. It was a gallery that doubled as a venue, and also housed resident artists in a shared studio space, we had a music production studio in the back as well. We did a lot with that 1000 square feet! We were open for almost two years but had to close due to irreconcilable differences with the landlord. We have since gone back to pop up events and activations, consulting, and being a bridge for artists to opportunities.
Chicago has a vibrant and important art scene, what are some things that you think make Chicago arts community and art coming out of Chicago so special?
The Chicago arts community is definitely special, after all it is what has kept me here five years more than I intended! What I love the most is that it seems like the artists here really give it their all and create their best work time and time again. There’s so much talent brimming in this city, and so many sub scenes and communities. Each of them has this amazing roster of artists creating and they uplift each other. I think I get spoiled living here and being around so many top notch artists, in all realms, that sometimes when I visit other cities, it can be hard not to compare. People out here really hustle and make moves and it shows in the work. I also am fascinated by Chicago historically as a place where many artists have come and done major projects and work that have greatly impacted or shaped their careers.
AMFM brings together Art, Fashion and Music can you talk about the importance of the overlap between creatives working in different mediums and fields?
There is a closeness in the arts community here in Chicago. Artists here are consistently collaborating with one another. Musicians will collaborate with artists, fashion designers with musicians and artists, and musicians will feature on each other’s projects or play in each other’s bands etc. Overall for creatives, I think there’s a new “artist” that doesn’t just do one thing. Many people have their hands in different projects across mediums and fields and are multifaceted and talented people. I think that creates a more well rounded approach and way of creating, presenting work, and engagement. There’s a bit of something for everyone, and I have always been interested in serving up a platter of art and showcasing people with depth and layers.
With so many talented Resident Artists it is probably hard to choose but could you tell us about one or two participating in the Online Studios you are particularly excited about at the moment?
I am really excited about Caroline Liu’s work. I just did a big install in the storefront of a gallery in Wicker Park, Roots and Culture, called “Forget Me Not, Forgive Me Not.” The exhibition is a duo show with another artist featured, Moises Salazar, and is viewable from the sidewalk. I have worked with Caroline for a few years now; she did her first permanent mural at our gallery and from then her career sort of sky rocketed and she’s been commissioned by the city and brands to do more work. It’s been great to see her work shift and evolve and learn more about her as an artist and how her personal life influences her work. She’s such an advocate for invisible disabilities, as much of her work has to do with her memory loss and recent diagnosis as autistic. Her colorful and vibrant work blurs the lines of realism and surrealism, and I love the tactile nature of her work. You can actually touch it, which is a refreshing thing in a world where you typically can’t touch art.
I also am always excited about the work and growth of Roland Santana and Marcelo Eli, who are two artists I consistently work with. I am an avid collector of both of their work and we have become good friends. Roland is always working with new materials and textures and I love the minimalism of it, and Marcelo is quite the opposite, his work is more gritty, layered with themes, stories and symbolism. Sometimes there are multiple paintings in one painting!
Events and community are at the center of what you do, how has that shifted the work of AMFM in the past few months?
Like many artists communities, Covid-19 has put a halt to a lot of the typical things we are known for – events, gatherings, art exhibitions etc. But it has also been an opportunity to envision the next phase of this work and re-imagine how AMFM can connect with people, and get some much needed respite. I have facilitated some virtual artist talks, which has been great, because we are able to think differently about building a digital archive, think about new ways to engage with work virtually or at a distance and connect with other artists across different geographies. We just hosted a virtual event with the Allied Media Conference based in Detroit called Black Independence Day. We have been doing this event for the past three years in person, but it being virtual allowed us to showcase work from artists from all over and include it in our program and not just focus on regional artists. This time racio-politically has also reinforced our work and how important it is to continue to uplift and support black artists and artists of color, not just because it’s the right thing to do at the moment, but because these stories have been and will always be important and should be heard and seen.
What’s Poppin This Week is a great feature of AMFM, Do you have any recommendations for this week?
We were doing a bunch of What’s Poppin features at the beginning of quarantine to try and keep the momentum of the normal event rundown going, and posting all of the virtual events going on. Then as virtual fatigue kind of set in, and things really started to boil with Covid and race relations, I needed to take a step back for my own mental health as well. It didn’t feel right talking about what’s popping when the world seemed like it was literally about to pop. With so much focus on demonstrations, protests and communities caring for one another, we have shifted to sharing support, relief funds, and initiatives happening around the city. What’s popping is that people come together in whatever way they can (because not everyone can be in these streets) to try and create some change in their communities, or lend a hand, a voice, an ear, a platform, some funds, some food, or some love to the people out here fighting for justice and health during this time.
What’s next for AMFM?
We have a few exhibitions coming up this fall, if we are able to. One that was postponed, but is happening next month with the Hyde Park Art Center is their big Artist Run Chicago show, where we will have an activation, and a virtual version and food distribution in September for our annual FEAST Festival, a festival that supports emerging artists and brings awareness to food deserts on the south and west sides of the city. It’s been so hard to think about what’s next because of so much uncertainty, but the continual goal has always been to work behind the scenes on building a great foundation to get ready for the next steps for AMFM, and revisioning what that will look like and how the work will evolve. Ultimately the goal is to get our nonprofit status, open another space, buy a building, and keep building!
Finally, what are you inspired by at the moment?
Beyonce, black women in the arts, and collage videos