Emerging art space:

Why Rockford?

After completing their Masters degrees at Northern Illinois University, Jason Judd and Iga Puchalska found themselves living back in Judd’s hometown of Rockford, Illinois. Judd was hired by the Rockford Art Museum and continued his work as an independent curator, organizing the exhibition “Ultra-Deep Field” at the Clark Arts Center at Rockford College. Puchalska worked with Rockford families through Children’s Home and Aid while working with Animacorp, a Rockford animation company, under Mike Werkle, who now is the founder of the West Side Show Room.

Puchalska and Judd were aware of the creative energy that was growing around them - the emergence of the Werkle’s West Side Show Room, Pablo Korona’s Conveyor, the Hip Hop Congress, Mainfraim’s new Fraim X Mortar space, to only name a few. While considering Rockford’s incredible collection of public art along the River Walk, Puchalska and Judd wondered how they can engage the Rockford community through a contemporary form of public art—one that is not static or steel but ephemeral, collaborative, and alive. They decided to investigate this idea under the name Public Practice.

With no budget and no permits from the City of Rockford, their idea culminated on July 13, 2014 with a project entitled “Parade”. In the spirit of collaboration and public engagement in the arts, Public Practice, artist Jesus Correa, and Rockford Art Deli organized an innovative art exhibition that not only started in the public, but also invited the public to participate. Public Practice considered a parade as a medium of art and the artifacts (or floats) to be art objects. Local and regional artists were invited to create sidewalk sized floats to accompany them during the parade, which ended at Rockford Art Deli as an art exhibition. Along with the artists, the public was encouraged to join our sidewalk parade. The parade was an incredible success with over 150 community members and artists participating.

After this incredible experience Judd and Puchalska’s idea of opening a contemporary art space was born.

Life had other plans. Judd took a position at Illinois State University to be a new Curator of Art and Puchalska taught animation and art education at ISU while completing her second Masters in Art Education at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Judd and Puchalska continued their community-centered work throughout central Illinois and Chicago.

Now equipped with extensive experience in the arts, Judd and Puchalska are taking steps to fulfill their dream of creating an art space focused on emerging and digital art forms in the city that first inspired them. As Rockford emerges, they too hope to emerge as a pioneering interdisciplinary platform that considers the fluctuating ideas of multiculturalism and diversity while investing in innovative ways to reveal how new and digital art forms’ translate their value to therapeutic, educational, and community settings.