Turning ordinary people into art patrons

Commissioning works of art is usually thought of as a pastime of the super-rich or art connoisseurs. But a new exhibition in Hyde Park is challenging that notion, cultivating art patrons from ordinary community members. 

Not Just Another Pretty Face, an exhibition of commissioned work from Chicago artists, opens tomorrow at the Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 S. Cornell Ave. 


Though many people think of commissions as costing a huge sum of money, Christina Jensen, development associate at the Hyde Park Art Center, says the pieces in the exhibition range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. 


“We definitely opened up a way for people who don’t normally think of themselves as art buyers to commission a piece,” Jensen says. 


The show is the culmination of yearlong partnerships between more than 60 Chicago area artists and community patrons who commissioned their work. 


The exhibition, now in its third year, allowed patrons to choose an artist to create a “portrait” of themselves. The patrons collaborate with the artists over a year’s time to create the piece for the exhibition. The portraits range from literal to abstract ideas that capture a part of a person’s identity. 


Deone Jackman, a retired psychotherapist living in Hyde Park, has participated in the exhibition since its beginning. She is excited to see the work she commissioned from Jacob Hashimoto, who makes three dimensional sculptures and structures out of paper. Hashimoto, who studied at The Art Institute of Chicago, took photographs of Jackman’s hands as part of the piece. 


Jackman says the exhibition helps regular people become part of the art world. 


“Too often artists are viewed as people who have very different sensibilities and attitudes,” Jackman says. “And the patrons are afraid of making some kind of mistake – that they will show that they don’t know much about the art world.”


Not Just Another Pretty Face, sponsored by the Sara Lee Foundation, opens with a gala from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday. Tickets to the gala are $100 and are available online. After the gala, the show is free and open to the public seven days a week.