Julia Victor and the West Side School for the Desperate

Julia Victor and a turtle at Chicago aquarium.

Julia Victor is a 22 year old GVSU Fine Arts graduate, originally from Detroit. Last year she moved to Chicago to help run an art and poetry collective called “The West Side School for the Desperate”(WSSD) owing the name partly to it’s Westside location. The WSSD will also be contributing a monthly poem to this site written by one of their members.

H.A.C.K.: Please outline the vision of West Side School for the Desperate….

J.V.: The West Side School for the Desperate is a multi-media art collective located in Logan Square, Chicago. The space serves as a live/work space, DIY venue, gallery (and most recently, a small press)–a school, figuratively, and literally.

H.A.C.K.:What do you spend most of your time doing?

J.V.: We all do a little of everything during shows. I run the gallery, mostly spending my time booking and curating shows and installing and deinstalling work. I also help coordinate poetry workshops, and usually provide a prompt that engages visual art in some way.

H.A.C.K.: What % of your income is generated from your art? How do you supplement? What would it take for you to quit your day job?

J.V.: Any money we make at the West Side as well as Desperate Press is directly put into financing future projects. I work a full-time job at Powells bookstore to cover living expenses.

H.A.C.K.: What area of the state, city, neighborhood, lakeshore etc are you most inspired by and why?

J.V.: The neighborhoods I spend most of my time on a daily basis. I love living in Logan Square, it has everything I need in close proximity: a strong community of artists, cheap bars, the perfect coffee shop and Longman & Eagle. Hyde Park is probably my favorite neighborhood of Chicago. Its a beautifully well-preserved historic community, centering primarily around the University of Chicago. There are so many small businesses, like Powells, that have been a part of Hyde Park for decades. It all just screams Chicago pride. Even outside of the well-preserved Hyde Park into the more despairing areas of the southside make me painfully nostalgic for its resemblance to my hometown of Detroit, triggering some of my earliest visual recollections of home.

H.A.C.K.:What are some keys to structuring your studio, schedule, etc. for maximum productivity?

J.V.: Taking full advantage of down time. Being mindful that art is life.

H.A.C.K.: What/who inspires you? Is there anything about Chicago that feeds your work or your creative habit?

J.V.: The other members of the West Side – my roommates, close friends, and artistic peers. They’re all writers, and primarily poets, so it’s been exciting mixing myself into an artistic community outside of the visual arts. I think a lot of the art I’ve made post undergrad and since moving to Chicago has allowed me to step outside of individualized studio practices I was accustomed to in academia.

H.A.C.K.: Please reveal the last three books you read, and why?

J.V.: Love & Obstacles by Alexander Hemon. He’s a Chicago based writer; I had wanted to read his work for a while, and we carry all of his novels in quantity at Powells.

Everyone Talks About the Weather, but We Don’t, the political writings of Ulrike Meinhof. I got interested in the Baader-Meinhof group through a series of paintings by Gerhard Richter.

The Hydrogen Jukebox, selected writings of Peter Schjeldahl, 1978-1990. Another random find perusing the art history section at Powells.

H.A.C.K.:When, where and from who did you last purchase or trade some artwork?

J.V.: I can’t remember! I’ve given away a lot of artwork lately.

H.A.C.K.: What or whom in Grand Rapids has impressed you the most with their ingenuity pertaining to business or community?

J.V.: In Grand Rapids I rented out studio space with local artist Jeff Kraus in the 1111 Godfrey complex while we were studying at Grand Valley. It was great to co-exist with so many artists in one space and continues to serve as a really strong community for artistic production in Grand Rapids.

H.A.C.K.: How long have you been working on WSSD

J.V.: I moved into the collective August 2011, though the collective has existed since February 2011.

H.A.C.K.: Is West Side School for the Desperate your main focus or are you working on other projects if so what can you share with us?

J.V.: I’ve recently been working through the West Side on an anthology of poetry & visual art featuring core community builders at the West Side to commemorate the collective’s one-year anniversary in February. This will also be the first publication through Desperate Press. I aided in the lay out of the manuscript and made some visual artwork of which are integrated throughout the book. I’ve also been entertaining the idea of making small edition hand-made exhibition guides through Desperate Press to document gallery shows installed at the WSSD.

H.A.C.K.: How do you hope WSSD will impact the city? or what do you hope for its future?

J.V.: Our main mission is to provide opportunities to emerging artists. Our definition of emerging artist encompasses high school students to grad students to non-academic outsiders, in hopes of building a strong artistic community, which we all hope to continue to build upon. We work with other collectives and organizations such as Young Chicago Authors and other local DIY efforts. Right now I’m in the process of co-organizing a quarterly collaboration with performance group MotherGirl, which I’m super excited about. It’ll be a story telling event where artists of all artistic backgrounds are asked to respond to a theme (our first one being “No Manners”) to be performed/displayed at the West Side on March 1st. I’m really interested in encouraging multi-disciplinary efforts, to better involve Chicago’s artistic community, and I think this collaboration really does that.

H.A.C.K.: What professional maintenance activity most distracts you from accomplishing your professional goals?

J.V.: Student loans, car insurance, bills$$$.

H.A.C.K.:What is your favorite Pokémon?
J.V.: It’s a toss up between Gloom and Gengar.

Submitted by emma. 

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