Navy Pier Visitors Can Watch Artists Paint, Draw and Create Live in New Exhibit: ‘It Opens Up Doors’

Oftentimes, it can be assumed that consuming art is exclusive to more traditional spaces like museums. But what about public entities that attract tourists and local field trips alike? A creative exhibition at Navy Pier showcases local artists and their artwork in an untraditional fashion.

The Women’s Live Artist Studio is a new permanent art exhibition that opened earlier this summer. It consists of work by primarily Black and Brown female artists from the Chicagoland area.

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For artist Candace Hunter, the idea of art being more accessible in nontraditional spaces not only opens a lot of doors but fosters necessary conversations.

“I think that often people, they see something in a gallery or magazine or they come to the Hyde Park Art Center or someplace — they don’t know how the work is actually created,” Hunter said. “I think more honor comes to the work when people see the execution of it. That’s an incredible thing.”

That’s why when she was approached by the co-founders of the Women’s Live Artist Studio, Martha Wade and Dana Todd Pope, she couldn’t say no.

“To be able to see art, working artists, art at work, is invaluable,” Hunter said. “Because even to this day, there’s still a stigma about going into a museum for a lot of communities. And so you have those communities walking through Navy Pier who maybe their mothers and grandmothers never went to a museum, never went to a gallery, and yet, here they are. ... This gives them access, and access is extremely important. If you don’t have access, you’re locked away. And so it opens up doors.”

Hunter’s work in the permanent exhibition features a series she started during the pandemic: Brown Limb Girls.

“My work always talks about some kind of injustice,” Hunter said. “… The work asks questions. It asks you to think. It asks you to act. And so I feel like if I’m not doing that, I’m not doing my full job.”

Hunter said she appreciates having her work displayed among other featured creatives.

And the artwork in the exhibit isn’t limited to what people can see on the walls. It’s called the Women’s Live Artist Studio for a reason. 

Every day, one of the featured artists sits and paints, draws or creates, live.

The exhibit initially started as a temporary pop-up at the Navy Pier Neighborhood Artisan Market. After developing a relationship with its organizer, Pope and Wade extended their temporary stay and went from a table pop-up to permanently taking up shop at a kiosk.

Pope said they “could’ve just showed our work, but it never occurred to us to do just that. We always wanted to include other artists.” 

With more than 30 artists, the future of the permanent gallery will continue to incorporate and celebrate female artists while engaging with the public. In the future, they plan to host paint-and-sip events that will creatively incorporate other local vendors within Navy Pier.

If you’re interested in seeing some live artwork, the Women’s Live Artist Studio is located in the Fifth Third Bank Family Pavilion at Navy Pier, right next to the Chicago Children’s Museum. The exhibit is open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Follow Angel Idowu on Twitter: @angelidowu3

Angel Idowu is the JCS Fund of the DuPage Foundation Arts Correspondent.

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