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Artist's Corner: Talking "Nightbloom" with Johalla Projects

ACTIVATE is back on May 15! Get ready for an immersive urban art experience in the Loop’s Sullivan Center Alley, located on Monroe Street between State Street and Wabash Avenue.

The ACTIVATE season kicks-off with Johalla Projects’ Nightbloom, an exploration of the dynamic relationship between light and dark. Anna Cerniglia, founder of Johalla Projects, answers our questions about Nightbloom and the artistic process.

Get a behind the scenes look at Nightbloom before it hits the alley next week. Follow us on Instagram at @loopchicago for more photos and a preview of what to expect.

Describe the work that will appear at ACTIVATE on May 15.

We chose work alongside our theme, Nightbloom, which my partner in ACTIVATE, Heather Gabel, and I came up with. We wanted artwork that explored working with light and nature. We partnered with some really great artists. Andrea Jablonski has created some mountains and icebergs. We are making our third attempt to create a prism and are crossing our fingers it works! We have partnered with Suzy Poling on a moon video piece. And much more.


(Artwork by Andrea Jablonski. Iceberg in the process of being completed.)

Where did you get the inspiration for Nightbloom? Did you explore other themes?

Last year I worked with Heather Gabel as my curatorial partner so it's natural we partnered again. When we brainstorm for our projects, the topic of nature has come up a few times. Since the alley is so dark, gritty and breezy we thought it would be fun to add some elements of nature inside the space.

Johalla Projects curated an event in Sullivan Center Alley last year. What type of things did you learn from last year’s ACTIVATE and how does that translate into this year’s design?

Last year we played with the idea of spring and worked with artists who already had work to display. This year we picked artists who currently have work but we were able to let artists create pieces for the show as well. Since we understand the environment a bit better, we feel like we can be a bit more adventurous.

What is the curation process like? How did you select the artists participating?

After we chose the theme to pursue we went on a hunt to find different artists to work along this theme. We found art already made and asked some artists to create some pieces. We normally look for artists comfortable in this environment. Asking artists to add work to an alley is always challenging, but some artists love working in unconventional spaces.

How does this project differ from others you have curated?

Johalla Projects has done a few projects where we convert unconventional spaces into artistic experience. Stating that, every space we have occupied is different and challenging in its own way. We are looking forward to working in the alley once again; every time we learn something new!


(Artwork by Jeffrey Michael Austin)

Any other thoughts you would like to share?

I want to thank Tristan (Chicago Loop Alliance’s program manager) for always challenging me with fun new spaces. If you are not challenged are you growing?

Nightbloom participating artists include:

Jeffrey Michael Austin, Elizabeth Cronin of Asrai Garden, Heather Gabel, Andrea Jablonski, Johnny Decker Miller, Samuel Nigrosh, Lauren Payne, Colleen Plumb, Suzy Poling, and Charles E. Roberts III.

About Johalla Projects

Johalla Projects was established in 2009 by Anna Cerniglia as a venue for emerging and mid-career artists. Located in Chicago's West Town neighborhood, Johalla Projects is a collective space collaborating with artists, writers, and curators. In addition to presenting exhibitions in its gallery space, Johalla works to organize and execute public art projects in neighborhoods across the city of Chicago.

(Photo: Artwork by Charles E. Roberts III)


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