Founded in 2009, the Chicago Urban Art Society (CUAS) is an emerging arts non-profit exhibition space and creative-use organization. Serving as a creative hub and a community, cultural institution, this mixed-use center promotes the works of contemporary artists, community organizations, creative-sector groups and arts practice and production. A trailblazing space in the East Pilsen Industrial Corridor and the first visual exhibition anchor tenant located in the city’s new arts district - Cermak Creative Industries District - CUAS aims to not only cultivate curatorial practice. Through exhibits, innovative teaching and learning opportunities, and non-traditional venue space, CUAS is by nature cross-platform and establishes its credibility through creative juxtapositions.
Targeting visual artists and creative independents, the broader vision for CUAS is to incorporate basic principles of sustainability, accessibility, collaboration, entrepreneurs, localism, synergy and community. These elements work together to help support artists and related professionals at a variety of levels of practice. The Chicago Urban Art Society has created many opportunities to support individual artists, and collaborates closely with Chicago’s arts service organizations. Their grassroots approach offers profound place-making experiences and arts engagement exchange.
Some notable programming includes:
- In 2011 and 2012, the Chicago Urban Art Society presented the Slow & Low: Community Lowrider Festival in the Pilsen community and founders of the Chicago Lowrider Preservation Fund.
- CUAS co-launched the Midwest presentation of New Orleans artist, Candy Chang’s BEFORE I DIE, interactive public art project.
- In 2010-2011 CUAS revitalized and curated multiple exhibitions and formed a creative incubator space as part of the Chicago Loop Alliance’s Pop-Up Art Loop initiative focused on activating vacant commercial space.
- CUAS serves as a curatorial resource for Alderman Solis’ Art in Public Places community public art project.
- In the shared spirit of better supporting other creative organizations, CUAS donates gallery space to selected groups/individuals for art production.
Founders and siblings, Peter Kepha and Lauren Pacheco are third-generation Mexican-Americans born and raised in Brighton Park, a community on Chicago’s southwest side and proud Chicago Public School graduates. Both, former operators and founders of 32nd&urban, an alternative visual art exhibition space in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood from 2006-2009. 32nd&urban was nominated twice for “Best South Side Gallery You Might Miss” and “Freshest Gallery” among several exhibition write-ups.
LAUREN M. PACHECO holds a degree in social work and has consistently taken the initiative to strengthen and unite Chicago’s diverse arts community. She has worked hard to bring the arts to a broader audience and bridge cultural sector programming in Hispanic communities. Under Lauren’s leadership, the Chicago Urban Art Society has also become a resource to policymakers and has helped engage in the public dialogue about issues that impact artists and creative enterprises. Lauren is the recipient of the prestigious New Artist Society Merit Scholarship from the School of the Art Institute (SAIC) as a graduate student in the Arts Administration and Policy program. Her civic and community-driven participation includes Urban Gateways New Arts Forum, Chicago Votes, Arts Alliance Illinois, Governor Quinn’s Creative Economy Initiative, ElevARTE Community Studio among others. Linkedin Profile
PETER KEPHA has a BFA in oil painting and is currently enrolled at the University of Chicago’s Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies Program in partnership with the Hyde Park Art Center. A freelance graphic designer and illustrator with his design firm, DetourStudio he serves as principal Curator and Gallery Director of the Chicago Urban Art Society. Kepha has also curated other traditional exhibitions in gallery settings as well as pop-up exhibits in vacant storefronts and incubator-type settings. A former arts educator and muralist, Kepha is a practicing mixed-media artist and has exhibited in Chicago galleries. Peter Kepha also serves on civic and entrepreneurial initiatives such as the Chicago Ideas Week – The Cooperative.
Phil Mullins, President
Chicago Urban Art Society Board President, Phil Mullins, has been involved with the organization since its non-profit inception. Serving as a strategic leader for CUAS, Phil brings both community organizing and non-profit experience.