It’s become something of a tradition to seek out a local artist to create the physical NGen Leadership Award, ensuring that each year’s winner has a keepsake that is unique and meaningful – and this year is no exception.
We found Chad Kouri through the nonprofit Hyde Park Art Center – whose executive director, Kate Lorenz, serves on the Upswell Accelerator. Chad’s bold, abstract works are driven by color and materiality, making him the perfect choice to create a one-of-a-kind award.
This year’s winner will receive a custom wall hanging that Chad is creating using colors and symbols from Upswell. He sums it up in his Artist’s Statement:
Any project that creates progress and change requires hope, patience, and hard work. With many false starts, ups and downs, trial and error, it takes a unique and empowered individual to get from having a big idea to effecting real change in the community. These “warp zone” style artworks are meant to represent the liminal space between the inception of an idea, and that idea creating change, progress, action, and support. The cool color palette is directly from the Upswell brand and emotes a feeling of calmness and symbolizes loyalty, strength, wisdom, and trust.
We dropped by Chad’s studio on the West Side of Chicago to see him at work and learn more about the painstaking production process, which includes computer design, printing on fabric, and foil application using a hot press. This last step in particular represents a recent part of Chad’s creative evolution.
“For me with this abstract work, adding the reflective element is a way for people to literally see themselves in the work. It’s not exactly a mirrored surface, but you can kind of change the object by standing in front of it or hanging in front of different things, and it can evolve over time. I want people to have this active viewing experience and have it prompt some introspection and some imagination.”
And why a wall hanging, specifically?
“I didn’t want it to read like a painting. I wanted it to read like an award. So I was thinking about different ways to create something that was all hand done and also about the scale and the finish quality that I wanted. I started to think of pendants or flags or things like that, that are ceremonial in some capacity.”
To see the finished artwork – and learn who’s taking it home – don’t miss the Leadership Awards Reception at 5:30 pm on Thursday, November 14. Chad will be there, so be sure to say hello.