Julius Caesar (JC) has supported Chicago’s contemporary art scene outside the commercial gallery ecosystem since 2008. Beginning as a Sunday afternoon showcase of SAIC students, graduates and teachers, Molly Zuckerman-Hartung, Dana DeGiulio, and Diego Leclery were among the founders of the artist-run experimental space in the East Garfield neighborhood. All shows were to be democratically voted on, but each director had one “trump month” for unilateral programming. The space would be free of commercial objectives, and directors paid dues to fund operations
Exhibitions remain democratically selected, although leadership has rotated over the years. The current directors are Roland Miller, Josh Dihle, Tony Lewis, and Kate Sierzputowski. We are not paid out of JC’s operating budget- we pay to participate. All money donated to JC goes directly to the space, artists, and exhibitions.
JC is open to the general public through free, monthly exhibitions. Programming features emerging and under-represented Chicago artists. Artist talks on contemporary practices foster an artistic community outside commercial venues, and we elevate the non-commercial platform by hosting artists from around the world.
Programming is committed to diverse artists having access to national and international art dialogues. Since 2014, exhibitions have featured artists from Chicago, Berlin, Portugal, New York, Israel, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Boston, Michigan, and Milwaukee. Subject matter has ranged from animal rights activism to post-gender futurist fashion, and black body politics. Exhibitions have been written about or published in Art Forum, Contemporary Art Daily, Hyperallergic, Frieze, Chicago Tribune, ArtSlant, New City, Bad At Sports, Damn Magazine (Denmark) and Barbed Magazine, among others.
JC ran its first major fundraiser in 2015, auctioning artworks donated by local and national artists. That money was used to renovate an adjoining art studio to make it available as an exhibition space, thereby doubling the gallery's footprint. That auction also enabled the purchase of a digital projector, flat screen TV, sound equipment, 10-foot ladder, and chop saw- the recent expenditures greatly enhancing curatorial flexibility. For the first time since opening in 2008, we are capable of having an exhibition space in one room and a screening in the second: an invaluable asset for multi-disciplinary and performance artists consistent with our programming.
Increased funding also expands the scope and reach of exhibition programming by funding artists around the world to share their ideas and vision in Chicago. Over the past year we have contributed to help artists travel and ship work. JC has established financial stability with a low overhead business model, but as with any non-commercial project, it’s an ongoing struggle. Julius Caesar has earned its standing as an ark of experimentation and rigorous debate, and the directors work tirelessly to improve the gallery's offerings. Our artists deserve it.