Think that art and commerce make strange bedfellows? Think again. Signal’s new downtown Chicago office isn’t just a hub of technology innovation; it’s also home to The Spotlight, a gallery installation featuring the work of area artists.
“I’ve been hearing of tech companies doing things with the visual arts — for example, Facebook and Havas Chicago have had artists paint murals within their offices,” says Rine Boyer, Signal’s manager of knowledge management, who spearheads the Spotlight effort. “However, for Signal I wanted to do rotating art exhibits instead of murals, because it brings more types of art into the office and supports artists by showing the work they make in their studio, not work commissioned for a specific space. As an artist myself, supporting local artists and bringing a variety of art into a space outside of a gallery or museum is important to me.”
Signal co-founder and CEO Mike Sands says initiatives like The Spotlight reflect the company’s core values and philosophy. “We have to be creative as an organization,” he says. “Celebrating folks who are creative just makes sense to me.”
The Spotlight’s first installation features Chicago’s Robin Dluzen, an artist previously highlighted in venues across the U.S., including Boston’s Dorchester Art Project, Indiana University Northwest and a range of Chicago galleries. Dluzen’s work draws inspiration from her upbringing in nearby southeast Michigan: The 10 pieces Boyer selected for the gallery, completed on utilitarian materials like cardboard and lawn bags, are based on botanical illustrations created by Dluzen’s mother during her 30-year career as a horticulturist, as well as doodles by the artist’s father documenting his formative experiences working in an iron foundry.
Dluzen welcomes the opportunity to exhibit her work in such an unconventional setting. “Most often, artists experience their artwork in a gallery’s white box, so exhibiting my artwork in a functional, occupied space gives me a chance to really see how my work can live in the real world,” she says. “Art is not only something that you take a special trip to see at a museum or gallery; it’s also something that can be incorporated into the spaces where you live and work. Spending weeks and months with an artwork is so much more beneficial than spending a mere afternoon with it.”
All of the Dluzen pieces adorning Signal’s walls are for sale, ranging in price from $500 to $2,500. Signal also is paying Dluzen and all subsequent Spotlight-featured artists a stipend of $500 for loaning out their work.
Boyer plans to rotate Spotlight installations every two months. “I anticipate each artist will bring something new to the gallery, and expect it to evolve naturally,” she says. “The next artist is originally from Korea and makes abstract paintings based on her culture and experiences. Following that I have a well-known Chicago muralist who has painted commissioned murals throughout the city. Even though we’re not New York or L.A., there are quite a few different groups of artists doing interesting things in Chicago, and I hope to highlight that.”