Having Lunch with Alexander Calder

I’m in Chicago today, having a late lunch on the mezzanine of the Formerly-Known-As-Sears-Tower, AKA “The Willis Tower” although no hard-core Chicagoan likes to call it that. And I’m looking out over the balcony to see the famous moving sculpture by Alexander Calder, “The Universe.” Unveiled in October of 1974, this huge sculpture has three distinct moving parts, all of them mesmerizing.

Calder mobile Sears TowerPublic art is a passion of mine and Chicago is a great city for people with a passion for public art. I see it everywhere and I always stop to admire, no matter how hurried I may be. This very lobby recently hosted a show featuring Donna Hapac, a local sculptor introduced to me by my own beloved coach Jackie Sloane. Donna was featured in a show with several other talented sculptors and I asked for an introduction to learn more about the world of art since I’ve recently taken on a new artist client–my husband, Bill.

Here are a few things I’ve learned about the artist community, thanks to insights from Donna and other artists I’ve interviewed:

  • Art, like any business, depends on relationships. To a person, each artist I’ve asked to interview has granted me their time and shared generously of their vision and experience. Mike Bauer, a sculptor who works in concrete and steel creating sculptures of considerable beauty and magnitude, opened his home and his studio to Bill and me and told us of his own journey as an artist. Lennée Eller, program manager of the Phoenix Airport Museum at Sky Harbor International Airport, joined us for lunch and gave us insights about marketing art in the Valley of the Sun. And Donna Hapac graciously invited us to another show featuring her delicate organic sculptural forms held at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in Chicago. (The show is up through June 8–go see if if you’re in the Chicago area!)
  • People love sharing their stories. Most people–not just artists–love to share their own stories of how they got from where they were to where they are, their challenges, triumphs and horror stories. If you’re interested in pursuing any niche–whether it’s sky-diving or swaps, haute cuisine or haute couture, find people who are in that niche and ask them to share their stories with you. For the price of a latté and an hour, they will share their stories with you if you’re respectful and they know you’re serious about learning.
  • “Stories sell art.” These are the wise words of wisdom from Ms. Eller, who not only runs an extensive collection of art at the Phoenix Airport Museum but is an artist herself. This is something I hear over and over again as a member of the National Speakers Association…stories sell everything.

I’ve only begun to research the business of art. In the meantime, I get to revel in the fruits of this world-class city of art, venturing to galleries, museums and institutes that hold a world unto itself. Like this Calder sculpture, there’s movement and grace, symmetry and mystery. There are secrets but also experts who are more than willing to share. I hope you find that in whatever world you’re exploring. All you have to do is ask.

Note: If you are eager for an “artist’s date” and you’re in the Chicago area, please join us for an artist’s reception, Then & Now: Paintings by Bill Austin,” at the DuPage Framing Center (DFC) from 5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. next Friday, May 9. Bob Greene, owner of DFC, kindly agreed to host this reception which is at 276 E. Geneva Road in the elbow of a shopping center at the southeast corner of Main Street and Geneva in Wheaton, IL.