Artistic Creativity Meets Technical Innovation

David Tiemeier and Ann O’Brien. Photos by Lloyd DeGrane

During a routine business meeting in September at UChicagoTech’s new offices, Linda Darragh, Clinical Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship at the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, noticed lots of bare walls.

When she proposed filling them with art from the Little Black Pearl, a non-profit organization that serves residents of Chicago’s South Side, Alan Thomas, Director of UChicagoTech, the University of Chicago’s Office of Technology and Intellectual Property, leapt at the opportunity, thinking “that would liven up our work environment and strengthen relations with the local community. They would make a good partner because both organizations appreciate innovation and foster the entrepreneurial spirit,” he says.

The result of this casual conversation is what all parties expect to be a long-term relationship between UChicagoTech and the gallery, showcasing art on a rotating basis. The first exhibit, “Principles in Motion,” which opened with a reception on February 12, is a stunning collection of 50 original works of art, including photographs, paintings and sculptures. All the works were created by local artists.

“It’s certainly unusual to exhibit original art in an office setting, but people spend most of their waking hours at work, so this is a good way to reach them,” says Monica Haslip, Executive Director of the Little Black Pearl. “While most people at UChicagoTech work on technical matters, surrounding them with art will inspire their creative side.”

The exhibit includes a wide range of art, from abstract paintings to photographs of urban landscapes. Some works were created by students in the Little Black Pearls’ ARTS=SMARTS program and its after school visual arts program for children 11 to 18 years old. Others are made of recycled plastic bags, wound into colorful figures and forms. All the works of art are for sale.

Another artist on display, Ann Patrick O’Brien, was inspired by Chinese calligraphy for her series of colorful bicycle images hanging on the white walls at UChicagoTech. “Bikes are made up of lines and circles, like letters,” she says. “But they also represent speed, engineering and freedom. I try to convey all that when I paint a bike, and love the fact that UChicagoTech is exhibiting these paintings.”

Looking ahead, Haslip, who now sees UChicagoTech as the Little Black Pearl’s first off-site gallery, envisions a new exhibit every three months, or so. She likes to talk about one idea, in particular: having artists take some of the materials and information — patents, blueprints, models, documents, whatever — used at UChicagoTech, convert it into art, and exhibit it there.

“That art would be tailor made for the hallways and meeting rooms of UChicagoTech and could be especially inspiring to the people who work there,” she says.

By Greg Borzo


*UChicago Tech is now the Tech Commercialization team at the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in recognition of a $50M gift from Michael Polsky in 2016 to expanded the Polsky Center in order to unify and enhance UChicago’s leading venture creation initiatives. Learn more about this transformational gift. >>

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