The Hip Cat: Affordability and Exposure for Young Artists
Written by Megan Stringer
Music flooded out the open door of The Hip Cat and onto Addison Street, entering the ears of passerby and sparking an interest for what the glowing space inside might hold. The Hip Cat filled with just as many “hip” college students as “hip” cat statues, and for one night only, younger students had a chance to showcase their art.
On Thursday evening, Nov. 3, Will Conover and Matt Melemseter hosted an art show at the combined storefront and gallery space The Hip Cat. At the corner of Addison Street and Wolcott Avenue in the traditionally quiet Roscoe Village, youth artists from DePaul University made a welcome splash.
Conover, a sophomore advertising major at DePaul, was walking down the street with his roommate Melemseter one day when they happened upon The Hip Cat. A sign caught their attention, listing an email for contact about hosting a show. Conover and Melemseter had friends who wanted a chance to showcase artwork, and thought this might be the perfect opportunity to give that to them.
With the rental cost at $120, the two split the price and put on a show for their friends.
Their exhibit featured visual artwork from Vanessa Wilder and Maxx Ludeke, a film by Melemseter, live music from Jack Costanza, and more.
“I would say it was a success," Conover said. "Because it was something so undefined, it wasn’t like a true gallery and it wasn’t just a concert for Jack Costanza. It was somewhere in the middle, somewhere to just hang out."
The storefront-turned-gallery-turned-hangout-space was filled with mid-century modern furniture, little decorative trinkets, records, and more art for sale. The gallery curated by Conover and Melemseter sat in the back of the space, in a small room down the wooded walls of the hallway.
“Matt and I’s thesis was just that there are so many people who want to show their work, and so little spaces to actually have a professional space to do it. So this was just an excuse to show what these people created,” Conover said.
While not an official gallery, the affordability and the warm vibes of the space worked together to bring Northside locals and college students opportunities for art hangouts they might not find elsewhere.
Kathleen Fatica attended the show to see her roommate Wilder’s artwork, and hang out with some friends she knew would be there.
“I think probably there are many opportunities in the city to show your work, but people are intimidated by the concept of having an art show,” Fatica says. “There's also a financial block. While $100 for a night may seem doable to some, there are others that are here [at DePaul] on full scholarships, or are from very low-income families who are passionate about creating spaces for art, but would struggle with that.”
Aside from the economic aspect of hosting at The Hip Cat, the venue's atmosphere added to the enjoyment abuzz throughout the single-room that evening. Fatica describes the environment of The Hip Cat as “earthy, ambient, warm, funky, junk-drawer.”
Costanza, going by Co-Stanza as a musician, isn’t used to playing for smaller crowds in smaller spaces. However, the small community aspect of the show kept him excited to play that night.
“The Hip Cat show was special because it was so relaxed,” Costanza says. “Everyone was there to have a good time and no one really knew what to expect, so people were just happy to hang and look at art and listen to music. It was really well put-together but also very relaxed which can be a hard line to walk.”
People swayed to the peppy guitar beats, socialized in circles, and all expressed a gratitude for the show being put on.
“A small show is like a great dinner – very fulfilling and you are so happy to be there. It’s almost meditative and you can just sing and play and feel good,” Costanza says.
That night at The Hip Cat felt like a small dinner of old friends gathering for the first time in a while, to just be together and support each other, as a family would, in their own artistic endeavors.
All photos courtesy of Megan Stringer.
Contact Megan by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Instagram @meganticss.