art artandculture

SOFA CHICAGO - a must see!

Friday, October 24, 2014 tgoandco

If your image of an art opening is people coiffed in all black garb milling around looking at painting of old fruit and sipping wine — this is NOT that kind of art event. This is AMAZING. The SOFA Art and Design CHICAGO event is dedicated to artists that work in Sculptural Objects and Functional Art (aka.. SOFA).  So no, you are not going to see lots of oil painting and watercolors of some dried piece of fruit. Instead, you are going to see work that is beyond beautiful, it is also functional or developed with such skill that it will leave you mind boggled. This is the 21st anniversary of the event and there is much to see.

Often over looked, this work is not your typical work as it is not found in a frame. You will find the work in many museums and very many public and private collections as it represents skilled artists that have taken their craft to a new level. These works don’t typical fall in the categories that many galleries often exhibit.  Much like suits of armor, period furniture or sculptures found in many museums, they fall in the categories of applied arts — where art and design is applied to everyday objects to make them beautiful. Fine art aims to produce objects that are beautiful and provide a level of intellectual stimulation. The SOFA CHICAGO event represents both — applied arts that fall quite nicely into the fine art category. This is an international exhibit with 14 countries represented and over 70 galleries from around the globe. Unlike many gallery events where there may be one or two artists present, this show will have hundreds of artists present and the opportunity to see thousands of works of art — and as a bonus, this show is so popular, many of the artists will be there on hand to talk with. On an international scale this event is amazingly huge and sitting in Chicago’s backyard. And just to make it clear, this is a fine arts and crafts show… not an arts and crap show. No potholders crocheted by grandma, no doilies made of recycled plastic bags or strange lawn objects made of beer cans. This is a show that even if you hate art, detest going to art museums and leave running in terror from the Museum of Contemporary Art Museum, this show will take your breath away. This exhibit will have artwork executed in glass, wood working, metal work, porcelain, ceramics, textiles and so much more.

    This event is beyond any other art event in that artists are also creating work on the spot. One of highlights and favorites of this event is an opportunity to see Corning Museum of Glass “Hot Glass Roadshow”. Since 2005, the Hot Glass Roadshow has been mesmerizing the viewers as they work with molten glass as it comes out of furnace. This year, the winning entry from the SOFA CONNECT contest will be constructed on site the first day of the exhibit.  The Corning Museum of Glass is the world’s largest exhibit space devoted to the presentation of contemporary art glass. Their road show helps audiences understand the process, be able to ask questions and develop a better understanding of the media. This is really fun to watch. Kids will love it too. This is art in process. To be blunt — this is my favorite part of the SOFA CHICAGO. But I may have a new favorite. The American Association of Woodturners will be giving live presentations of wood working on a lathe. A particular fondness for this, I have worked on a lathe and the feeling is exhilarating. Seeing experts in this exhibit making art on the spot will have many guys (and gals) recalling memories of their father and grandfathers working in their woodshops. These craftsmen ramp up the experience of SOFA CHICAGO and make going to the event more of accessible and approachable. It is art that is demystified. There is also the Craft School Experience.  Five of the leading craft schools: Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Penland School of Crafts, Peters Valley School of Craft, and Pilchuck Glass School have joined together for a collaborative exhibit. This interactive exhibit strives to capture the essence what the craft school experience is all about. It features artworks of master teachers, resident artists, and students who have studied or taught at one or more of the participating schools. Through their combined efforts they are working to promote and encourage education and excellence in craft by emphasizing their unique opportunities for students to realize their abilities and focus on creativity. Expect to see some really interesting and thought provoking work.

Making the Connection:

CONNECT is a university-level design competition. Six art and design schools are chosen and offer students a forum to show their work. Each school creates an innovative environment incorporating seating, lighting and installations, and to exhibit their designs to an international audience. It is environment design for the attendees to relax and “connect” with other attendees. This is design applied to the environments with participants seeing and enjoying how architectural design flows seamlessly into their lives and into their living spaces. Spaces are approximately 575-square foot areas where visitors can relax and “connect” with other attendees. A jury assembled by SOFA CHICAGO will review all installations and the winning school will be awarded a cash prize. This years schools include:

Illinois Institute of Technology
Pratt Institute
University of California | Davis
University of Cincinnati | College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning
University of Iowa
University of Massachusetts | Dartmouth


makes it easy.

When you go to the Louvre, you want to see the Mona Lisa right? You want to see the best of the best? At SOFA CHICAGO, there is so much beautiful work that it can be pretty overwhelming. They put together a best of the best or a list of the “do not miss” pieces. This is SELECTS. These are pieces that have been highlighted and chosen by noted curators, designers, and critics. A brain child of fair Director Donna Davies, she tapped top professionals in the art and design communities to review the fair and make their picks. “We’re adding these selections to give our audience another opportunity to connect with the artwork,” said Davies. “Seeing what pieces each of these curators, designers, and critics have noted gives our visitors opportunities to further engage with artworks at the fair.” These highlights are available online to peruse though and then you can see them up close and personal at the show. One of the pieces that people seem to agree upon is a work entitled
Gilder River Vessel by Jennifer McCurdy. It is a wheel thrown porcelain and is approximately 7 x 14 x 10". It is presented by the William Zimmer Gallery.   Panelist Interiors Chicago Editor-in-Chief Diana Bitting noted “As someone that is not a skilled ceramist, I cannot fathom the amount of effort and the impeccable technique it took to craft this gorgeous vessel. A jaw-dropping heirloom.”


Take a break during the day and step into a couple of the presentations The SOFA CHICAGO Lecture Series. They feature engaging presentations by renowned artists, critics, curators, designers and collectors on a variety of topics. The series of lectures begin on Friday during the Fair. There over two dozen presentations to pick from.  Speakers will share their insights into current trends in art and design, and lectures include artists speaking about their own bodies of work to panel discussions addressing larger themes. The Lecture Series is included with general admission. One of the interesting ones that caught my eye is Transition From Wood to Glass Represented by Thomas R. Riley Galleries of  Cleveland, OH, Harry Pollitt discusses his aesthetic transition from wood sculptures to kiln cast crystal and achieving the same flowing, sensuous curves and negative space that make his wood sculptures so distinctive. There are so many, you will want to plan your day. It is very easy to spend the weekend here.

One last thing…

Before you go, do yourself a favor and go to www. This is a list of all the special events that are happening. There is so much there. As there are over 70 exhibitors, each has something going on to entice you. Look over the list as there are some interesting demonstrations, talks, book signings, tours, films/video screenings and presentations. If you can’t do the weekend consider the Opening night preview on November 6th. This one of the most anticipated evenings of the year, will mark the official start of the fair. The SOFA CHICAGO Opening Night Preview is a must-attend event for members of the art and design communities, collectors and patrons, as it offers the very first opportunity to view and purchase artwork from exhibiting galleries. Mark your calendars and put SOFA Chicago on it.

Hours and costs

SOFA CHICAGO is open Friday and Saturday 11 am – 7 pm; and Sunday 12 pm – 6pm. Tickets are available in advance or at the door, and they allow access to all aspects of SOFA CHICAGO. Tickets are $20 for general admission; $30 for three-day pass.  Students and senior and groups (10 or more) are $15. For advance ticket sales, go online to

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