Saturday evening, after stuffing ourselves at Bonjour Bakery Café, J. and I hopped on the bus and went downtown for Art on Track, which I had learned about from Puppet Bike. Art on Track consisted of eight elevated cars circling the Chicago Loop, with each car representing a local gallery. This is the type of idea that draws people, especially young ones, to the city; you’d never find an energized bow to creativity like this in Arlington Heights. Kudos to the CTA for being open to the idea and to those who worked with them to make it happen.
Art on Track was surprisingly well organized, especially for a first-time event. A small chalked sign at the bottom of the Adams/Wabash elevated stairs let us know that we were in the right place, and extra CTA staff directed us to a table where we paid $5 apiece for admission bracelets. Another employee whisked us through the gates, and one on the platform made sure people knew which trains on the various routes had come in so hapless travelers wouldn’t find themselves on Art on Track. One of them gave us an idea of when Art on Track was due at this starting point.
The Art on Track crowd was not difficult to spot, bracelets and buttons aside. With a few middle-aged and older exceptions, they were young, pierced, and tattooed, and most were Caucasian. Probably many if not most are involved in the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Far from being driven geniuses toiling in lonely garrets, Chicago’s young artists seem to be highly social. I wonder if the young Manet, Monet, Gauguin, and others were as much of an obvious type to their neighbors.
A “You are here” graphic in each car showed where we were in relation to the rest of the train, and which car was occupied by which studio. I think we began two or three cars from the back. The train stopped at each platform in the circuit so participants could change cars.
Our primary objective was the Peter Jones Studio and Gallery car, but we made it onto every car, some twice or more. The most memorable car featured pallets of grass strewn with flowers and guitarist/singers performing 1960s-style music on topical subjects (along the lines of a Dylan). Another car was decorated with garish posed photos of transvestite performers and particularly evil-looking clowns who made any Batman movie version of the Joker look tame. In a third car, musicians sporting face and body paintings of death images sang what I guessed to be Mexican songs. Painted paper plates were affixed to the ceiling of one car, and others had hanging (punching?) bags and other material pieces. Of course, there were some paintings, and Alan Emerson Hicks had brought at least two of his melted plastic sculptures.
In such narrow, crowded space, it was difficult to get a good look at anything, including artists’ names, but perhaps that was not the point. Maybe the idea was simply to acknowledge the growing young artist community spawned by the Art Institute’s expanding school and to energize them with their own event — not as big as Looptopia, but still important enough to be sanctioned by the city.
Early on, I observed a student/freelance photographer/makeup artist approach and older man, apparently a gallery owner or representative. Pleasantries were exchanged, followed by business cards. That was the point as well.
If I were to plan an Art on Track II, I would do at least one thing differently; I would dedicate one or two cars to the musicians and performers and have them take turns. Aside from the space constraints, I found that they distracted me from the non-lively arts. I would also add something for children, at least for the first hour or two, something that would appeal to families and add some diversity.
On another note, at one point I kneeled on my left knee on a seat without thinking and was reminded suddenly and painfully that I fell on it hard last Tuesday; it’s still black, blue, and green. I’ve been so worried about my teeth that I haven’t paid attention to my knee, which for some reason didn’t bother me as much as usual on the elevated stairs. I felt it today; I don’t know how to describe it, but the kneecap feels “squishy” compared to my solid right kneecap. It occurred to me today that I should make an appointment with my physician to see if an X-ray is in order. Aside from soreness to the touch (explained in part by the impressive bruise), the oft-insulted left knee seems to be functioning, but clearly it’s not like the other, and I suppose now is the time to see if anything can be done to minimize the long-term effects. Somehow I see a knee replacement in my future . . .