REPORT FROM EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR:
Looking back, VGA had a banner year in fiscal year 2016 (October 1 2015 - September 30, 2016) as we advanced our mission to draw public attention to games and new media of significance through exhibition and events. Our programming and partnerships were marked by innovation and high quality, our financial muscle became stronger and our Chicago footprint widened. VGA partnered with some of Chicago's greatest cultural and academic organizations such as Cards Against Humanity, Columbia College Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago, the Chicago Design Museum, Mana Contemporary, the Rebuild Foundation, the Neofuturists, Bit Bash and the Neofuturists to mount programming all over the map of Chicago from north to south and east to west. What a year!
Financially, we far exceeded our goals.VGA raised $14,493 in revenues, far exceeding our expenses. The esteemed Graham Foundation supported our incredible exhibition from the forthcoming title Manifold Garden by William Chyr. Columbia College Chicago provided critical support to realize the Art Game VS Game Art exhibit. VGA organized its first-ever annual fund and we are proud to build upon this loyal group of donors from within our board ranks and our expanded friends and family. Sales of editioned giclees and posters also enjoyed strong proceeds from our print sales of incredible art from games small and large. And finally, at the end of the fiscal year we mounted our most successful HARDCORE CASUAL Benefit for VGA Gallery to date, grossing over $4,000, raising awareness of VGA and honoring the contributions of AV Club Editor-in-Chief John Teti, who gave a speech about the importance of critique for gaming that none of us will ever forget. The year ended with a net surplus that we allocated to past debts and banked for future programming. I'm proud to report that VGA is now has zero debt and is well in the black and well positioned for future growth.
Speaking of growth, this year we grew our staff to ten deep and thanks are owed to our small, nimble group for their great work in making VGA shine. VGA co-founder and director of exhibitions and programs Chaz Evans' curatorial leadership sets the artistic direction of the organization and his ideas, exhibits and events are always nothing short of brilliant and inventive. Tom Caprel guides our communications strategy and keeps us up to date in trends in the marketplace and George Chen handles our growing load of print orders with an even, expert hand. The fact that they are all volunteer except for the occasional grant or contract compensation is all the more admirable. The largest addition to the staff was the wholesale new department of the VGA Reader. We are thrilled to welcome this crack team of Tiffany Funk, editor-in-chief, Michael (Mick) Reed, managing editor, and Amanda Coleman, VGA Reader intern, to help publish our first annual peer-reviewed journal slated to come off the press in 2017. It aims to be nothing less than a leader in the video game art scholarship. While Kristine Strom, manager of finance, and Heather Robbins, manager of development, have been pulled away by other commitments, we are very grateful for their time and hard work spent with us and we are fortunate to count on Kristine's service for future 990 filings. On our board of directors, with the help of our amazing Executive Committee of President Ross Hersemann, Vice President Eric Mittereder, Treasurer Adam Wolek and Secretary Jen Rhodes, we welcomed Antar Jackson, Jon Krusell, and Teresa Silva as intrepid new VGA leaders. Thanks to the entire VGA board for their service and governance, we are lucky to draw from the collective wisdom of this incredible mix of artists, game developers, academics and creative professionals.
From a communications perspective, more than 24,900 people experienced VGA art in-person. Online we had web traffic of 76,800 unique visits, and 2,952,394 impressions and 90,368 clicks in free advertising courtesy of our Google Grant. We also reached 14,985 using targeted Facebook ads, and our programs were covered in two major stories in the Chicago Reader. We were also featured in a Touch Vision video interviewed by Beth Elderkin and received plenty of shoutouts on social media. Our email list is over 700, twitter followers grew to 627, Facebook fans jumped to 592, and we started an Instagram account and now have 249 followers and growing quickly!
It's fun to look back and take stock of our impact. I hope you will keep in touch as there is a great deal of excitement to come.
VGA Co-Founder and Executive Director
REPORT FROM DIRECTOR OF EXHIBITIONS AND PROGRAMS:
As we move into a transformational year for VGA, it’s a great privilege to reflect on the programming goals we accomplished in FY16. When I say we, I'm referring to the large group of people who have all made crucial contributions to the organization, including our artists, our staff, our volunteers, our board, and the incredibly cool community of people coming to and participating in our shows. 2016 was a year of expansion in all of the program structures that we use to support video games and related new media art: exhibitions, education, residency, collection, sales, and even the establishment of a new endeavor: publications.
In October, William Chyr became VGA’s first artist-in-residence and was awarded studio space and a solo exhibition through UIC’s Maker Space at Mana Contemporary to work on his debut game Manifold Garden. The resulting exhibition was a unique opportunity to understand and document the process behind Chyr’s work as both framed and interactive aesthetic glitches. It also allowed audiences to get to know Chyr and his game Manifold Garden before its release (coming very soon!).
The group exhibition Psychedelic Tourism at Cards Against Humanity’s Black Box Gallery in March brought other new prints by Chyr together with work from Gardenarium by Paloma Dawkins and imagery from Ridiculous Fishing by Greg Wohlwend. As three bodies of work, they function as a study on the mercurial but inhabitable cityscapes, seascapes, and landscapes that are offered to those who visit virtual spaces in contemporary games.
Game Art Vs. Art Game opened at Columbia’s College Chicago’s Arcade Gallery in August as VGA’s biggest and most ambitious exhibition to date. The international survey of artists’ experiments with video games spanned decades and over 60 artworks, and illustrated the complex and evolving relationships between video games and contemporary art. It has also become VGA’s first touring exhibition and will be mounted at the Christian Peterson Art Museum in Fall 2017.
It is always a blast exhibiting fine art prints at Bit Bash. For VGA’s third consecutive year collaborating with the mid-west’s biggest video game fest, we were invited to curate a special selection of glitch artists from the Chicagoland area, together with the games and other festivities. The glitch-themed exhibition featured work by Nick Briz, Jon Satrom, Jessica Fenlon, Benji Blessing Sayed, Paul Hertz, Sara Goodman, and Christine Janokowicz.
Dateline: Bronzeville enjoyed a long installation at the Dorchester Art and Housing Collaborative to bring artist Phillip Mallory Jones’ rich historical vision of the black metropolis, 1940’s Bronzeville, to Chicago audiences. The exhibition was accompanied with education programs and tours that connected Mallory Jones’ techniques and extensive historical knowledge to students and members of the Dorchester Art community.
On top of the special exhibitions above we continue to grow and exhibit the video game fine art print collection that we founded for our first exhibition in 2014. We made new exciting acquisitions by Benjamin Crooks from Boxer, Sylvain Tegroeg from Hidden Folks, Pol Clarissou from Vignettes, Jonathan Blow’s The Witness, and That Dragon Cancer by Numinous Games. Selections from the print collection were exhibited in a number of venues: The Neofuturist Theater, The Chicago Video Game Law Summit, Bit Bash, our HARDCORE/CASUAL benefit at the Indie-City Co-op, and ValorCon 2016.
It continues to be an incredible honor to act as custodians of the work of so many brilliant artists and share it with different audiences. It’s a thrill to be able to look back and describe what happened in 2016, but it will be even more exciting to share what is coming in the next year. As always, please stay tuned as we find more ways to support artists who make videogames and find meaningful contexts for their reception in a larger international conversation on contemporary art.
VGA Co-Founder and Director of Exhibitions and Programs
FY2016 (October 1, 2015 - September 30, 2016) Programs
- William Chyr's Manifold Garden Exhibition in partnership with University of Illinois Chicago's Maker Space at Mana Contemporary (October 16-18, 2015) Attendance: 500
- The Neocade Exhibition in partnership with the Neofuturists (November 12, 2015 - Current) Attendance: 10,000+
- Psychedelic Tourism Exhibition of work by William Chyr, Paloma Dawkins, and Greg Wohlwend in partnership with Chicago Design Museum and Cards Against Humanity (March 25, 2015 - January 9, 2016) Attendance: 5,000+
- VGA at Chicago Video Game Law Summit in partnership with John Marshall Law School (April 16, 2016) Attendance: 250
- VGA Glitch Exhibition and Booth at Bit Bash August 13, 2016) Attendance: 2500
- Game Art VS Art Game Exhibition in partnership with Columbia College Chicago's Arcade Gallery and Columbia's Department of Exhibitions, Performance and Student Spaces (August 18 - October 28, 2016) Attendance: 4,000
- HARDCORE CASUAL Benefit Party at the Indie City Co-op (September 12, 2016) Attendance: 150
- VGA Booth Exhibit at ValorCon at Macy's (September 30,2016) Attendance: 1500
- Dateline: Bronzeville Exhibit of work by Philip Mallory Jones at the Dorchester + Art Housing Collaborative in partnership with the Rebuild Foundation (September 30, 2016 - March 31, 2017) Attendance: 2500
Cards Against Humanity
Chicago Design Museum
Department of Exhibitions, Performance and Student Spaces
Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts
Lisa Yun Lee
UIC Maker Space
ValorCon / Thomas Glen
VGA Staff (October 2015 - September 2016)
Tom Caprel, Manager of Communications
George Chen (Zhi Quiao), Store Manager
Amanda Coleman, Publications Intern
Chaz Evans, Director of Exhibitions and Programs
Tiffany Funk, Editor-in-Chief, VGA Reader
Jonathan Kinkley, Executive Director
Brice Puls, Manager of Exhibitions
Michael Reed, Managing Editor, VGA Reader
Heather Robbins Manager of Development
Kristine Strom, Manager of Finance
VGA Volunteers (October 2015 - September 2016)
VGA Board (October 2015 - September 2016)
VGA Reader Editorial Board
Adriaan de Jongh
B. Börkur Eiríksson
Benji Blessing Sayed
Cook & Becker
Craig D. Adams
David van Brink
Hannah Leja Epstein (hanski)
Hollow Tree Games
Michaël Samyn & Auriea Harvey (Tale of Tales)
Nina Freeman & Joni Kittaka
Philip Mallory Jones
Porpentine Charity Heartscape
Ryan & Amy Green (Numinous Games)
State of Play Games
Donors and Sponsors
Jeremie Michaels Lim