Outcomes for artists

For artists, the main advantage in taking part in an empty spaces project is to gain exposure and experience. In Chicago, the Pop Up Loop Project offered local artists the chance to have their work showcased in a metropolitan window display in the high end of town – an opportunity that otherwise would not have been open to them.

Building a reputation

This kind of exposure can grow an artist’s reputation, as was the case for Sara Schnadt, one of the first artists invited to show their work through Chicago's Pop Up Loop.

From November 2009 to January 2010 Sara's installation in The Loop, Networkexamined how virtual space co-exists with ordinary space. The exposure she received from this project led to specific opportunities for her to exhibit in prestigious institutions, including the Museum of Contemporary Art in Detroit.


In addition to exposure and potential sales of artworks, artists also get the opportunity to experiment and take risks in empty spaces that they would be otherwise not able to take in a gallery or museum. Private galleries are focused on sales and museums tend to want a work to be received in a particular way. Empty spaces initiatives allow emerging artists to gain experience of putting on an exhibition and established artists to do something experimental.

“Because there’s no institutional agenda or, in some cases, because there’s no need to worry about sales and the commercial aspect of the art world, artists have a certain kind of freedom when exhibiting in the storefront,” says Lauren.

“There may not be enough opportunities for artists to do that kind of experimental work, between leaving school and working in a commercial market. I think it’s important for artists, for their growth and development, to have time to experiment, to try new ideas. They might be afraid or not be able to try out something in a museum or gallery.”

An example is Ryan Brennan, an artist who was involved in several No Longer Empty exhibitions in New York. In his second exhibition, Ryan’s performance installation, titled Artist in Bathroom Residency gave the illusion that he was ‘living’ inside the gallery’s bathroom. The project encouraged Ryan to think about the notion of using video as medium to communicate with the audience in a new way. The project allowed him to push himself in a new direction to develop work that ultimately benefitted his practice as an artist.

Connecting with audiences

Seeing how passers-by react to their work, rather than just those who specifically go to a gallery, is another advantage for artists.

As part of Art in Storefronts Program in San Francisco, artist Niana Liu exhibited Three Entrée Restaurant, a simulated Chinese restaurant installation in an empty Chinatown storefront.

“She said she really benefitted from being there on a daily basis and meeting the people who were seeing her work and walking by,” says Lauren. “I think it’s really important thing to see how people react to your work and to also see how so many different kinds of people get to see your work – in this case it was people walking to dinner in Chinatown and stopping by. Niana really enjoyed being a part of a community.”