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Tristan Hummel engages the public with summer’s Pop-Up Art Loop

Pop-Up Art Loop –
Summer Edition

† Gallery walk, 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday

† Locations around the Loop

† Admission, free

† (312) 782-9160;

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Updated: May 1, 2013 9:04PM

Tristan Hummel is an ideas guy.

In fact, it was an innovative idea that the St. Louis native had in 2008 while still a sophomore at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago that not only gained him instant visibility on the local art scene, but led to his current job as program manager and curator at the Chicago Loop Alliance soon after graduation.

The aspiring artist conceived — and managed to pull off — Art on Track. The popular one-night-only mobile art gallery takes over a Chicago Transit Authority rail car, showcasing local artists in a different venue.

Since then, Hummel, 26, has made art presentations in nontraditional settings his specialty. Last year, he oversaw “Color Jam,” Jessica Stockholder’s transformation of the intersection of State and Adams streets into a brightly colored, three-dimensional painting. And he has spearheaded this year’s edition of Pop-Up Art Loop, which kicks into high gear from May through October. In this public-art project, different artists each month present installations in vacant storefronts throughout the Loop. Here Hummel talks about his recent initiatives and the Chicago art scene at large.

Appeal of working in alternative settings: I like engaging the public. I like making art that’s accessible. I was never very good at or attracted to the gallery structure, which is not to say that it’s not valuable and awesome, because it is. But I like removing that feeling that art is to be displayed and [instead] integrate it into people’s daily lives. There’s something exciting about working with the city and the artists and getting permits and doing it official. It becomes sort of like a game or a creative challenge: How do I figure out how to get this art on a train? How to get “Color Jam” permitted so that it is legal?

Willingness of artists to be involved in unconventional projects: They’re really into it, surprisingly. They want to do it. So many artists have this vision, and it’s really just the platform that they need.

Goal of Pop-Up Art Loop: It started in 2009, and the idea was that in the economic downturn, there were all these vacant storefronts, and those are the slow signs of urban blight. The Loop Alliance realized they could combat that, at least people’s perceptions, by putting in artists and, at the same time, creating an opportunity for the local art community to show their work.

Advantage of these exhibitions over traditional galleries: It becomes something different and very interesting when you’re experiencing it, and people are more receptive to that. It’s maybe more comfortable, because it’s just a slight dip outside the social norms. It’s not like going into a museum where you have to be quiet and there is a certain way to act and you’re not sure if you’re doing it right.

How does the Chicago public-art scene compare: I’m going to have to mention New York, and we do it better. This city is the right mix of accessibility and affordability that really allows public art to thrive, but it’s a big enough city with a world stage. We’re maybe even a little underacknowledged for our role in the world, which is good for the artists because it makes things a little cheaper, so you’re able to do more daring, bold art projects.

Projects you’d like to see happen here: There was great New York project. A guy made a swimming pool out of an industrial dumpster and brought it around to areas where there were no public pools. I think things like that are great, because it’s not just art, but it is something that is immediately appreciated by the public.

Art blogs or websites you follow: The Chicago Artists Resource ( tends to have some good articles. There’s a blog called Art F City (, which is awesome. And there is Contemporary Art Daily (, which was actually started by a student at the School of the Art Institute.

By Kyle MacMillan, a local freelance writer.

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