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Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

Culture Catalysts

2nd Tuesday of the month / Aug 2012May 2013

Chicago is a hotbed of arts and culture. Our city is home not only to amazing artists, important art spaces, and renowned universities but also to cultural leaders at the forefront of innovation in cuisine, music, fashion, literature, and beyond. Culture Catalysts is a monthly series that celebrates and provides a platform for Chicagoans at the epicenters of these scenes. Each month, get to know the work of a different Chicago-based thought leader, meet the artists featured in our Chicago Works exhibition series, and discover those who influence arts and culture in our community.

Aug 14: Heidi Norton, BMO Harris Bank Chicago Works artist
Sep 11: No event
Oct 9: J.C. Gabel
Nov 13: John Edel
Dec 11: Paul Cowan, BMO Harris Bank Chicago Works artist
Jan 8: Michael Williams and Richard Cahan
Feb 12: TBD
Mar 12: Martin Kastner
Apr 9: TBD
May 14: TBD


Heidi Norton

Heidi Norton (American b. 1977, lives in Chicago) received her BFA from University of Maryland and her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she is currently a professor of photography. Norton has had solo exhibitions in Chicago at Johalla Projects, Northeastern Illinois University, and Ebersmoore, and in San Francisco at Hungry Man Gallery. Her work was also included in the exhibition Snapshot at the Contemporary Art Museum in Baltimore, and in other group shows Mark Wolfe Contemporary in San Francisco, Monique Meloche Gallery and Andrew Rafacz Gallery, both in Chicago, and in New York at NADA Hudson, and the Knitting Factory. She is represented in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago and in the Midwest Photographers Project at the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago. Norton’s work is featured in the exhibition, BMO Harris Bank Chicago Works: Heidi Norton.

Click here for an audio recording of Norton’s talk.

J.C. Gabel

J.C. Gabel is the founding editor and publisher of STOP SMILING, the magazine for high-minded lowlifes, which published from 1995 to 2009. He is presently Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of literary organization The Chicagoan as well as Hat & Beard Press, a new book imprinted dedicated to nonfiction titles in the realm of art, architecture, design, film, music and pop culture. He is also an editor-at-large for Chronicle Books and Taschen Books and writes regularly for a variety of culture magazines, including Print, Bookforum, Playboy, The Oxford American, and Wallpaper.

Click here for an audio recording of Gabel’s talk.

John Edel

John Edel is the Founder and Executive Director of The Plant. After purchasing the building in July 2010, he immediately began deconstruction and renovation with a vision of intentional reuse, economic development, and truly sustainable food. John’s foray into building redevelopment was at the Chicago Sustainable Manufacturing Center, a green business incubator in the Stockyards Industrial Corridor. As General Contractor, Edel took the facility from a burnt-out shell to 100 percent occupancy while using a mixture of waste-stream recycled materials and leading-edge technology to make the building exceptionally energy efficient and pleasantly non-toxic. The renovation was assisted by a core group of volunteers and by bartering with suppliers, tenants and scrappers. In previous careers, John taught computer graphics, designed sets for broadcast television, art directed video games, and worked as a chef on private railroad cars. He has a lifelong dream of combining industrial preservation and plants in a productive, conservatory-like project.

Paul Cowan

Paul Cowan was born in Kansas City and currently lives and works in Chicago. He received his BFA from Milwauke Institute of Art & Design and an MFA from University of Illinois at Chicago. Exhibitions include Clifton Benevento in New York, Shane Campbell in Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, Young Art in Los Angeles, James Cohan in New York, Golden Age in Chicago, Michael Jon in Miami, and Green Gallery in Milwaukee. Cowan’s work is featured in the exhibition, BMO Harris Bank Chicago Works: Paul Cowan.

Michael Williams and Richard Cahan

Michael Williams and Richard Cahan, co-authors of Vivian Maier: Out of the Shadows, have collaborated on seven other books, including Real Chicago, Richard Nickel’s Chicago: Photographs of a Lost City, Who We Were: A Snapshot History of America, Edgar Miller and the Handmade Home, and The Lost Panoramas: When Chicago Changed Its River and the Land Beyond. They own CityFiles Press, a Chicago publishing company that focuses on art and photography books.

Martin Kastner

Martin Kastner is the founder and principal of Crucial Detail. Kastner, born in the Czech Republic, trained as a blacksmith and spent some time restoring historical metalworks at a castle in Western Bohemia before moving onto natural materials design and sculpture. He founded Crucial Detail in 1998 shortly after his arrival in the US. He is best known for his Alinea serviceware concepts, which landed him on The Future Laboratory’s list of 100 most influential individuals in contemporary design. Alinea book, which he designed in collaboration with Naissance Inc., was one of the winners in 2009 Communication Arts Design Annual for Best Book Design and is included in Altitude’s The Best of Cover Design. His work has been featured in numerous publications running the gamut from Gourmet to Fast Company.