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Flash Back II

Chicago Artists Coalition /MEDILL

Painting by Laura Lein-Svencner, "Flash Back II", one of many works archived on the Chicago Arts Coalition's website. The coalition is looking for Ald. Gene Schulter to pass an ordinance that would explicitly list artists as needing to purchase a two-year, $250 Limited Business License.

You say art dealer, I say artist, right?

by Liz M. Kobak
Feb 03, 2011

Wrong. Alyson Klobas, director of membership programs and media at the Chicago Artists’ Coalition, said an artist’s life mission is less business-centric than an art dealer’s.

“Artists are going to create work, whether or not they sell,” she said of the coalition’s 1,200 artist members.

When these artists decide to sell their work, they often do so from their studio. But there’s a problem. Some are doing this without a Limited Business License.

According to the city of Chicago's website, a Limited Business license, "is required for businesses in the city of Chicago engaged in general sales, that provide a service, engage in office operations or businesses that do not fall under another license category and are not exempt from city licenses."

But Klobas said the artists have been innocently in violation. “Many artists don’t know that they have to apply for this," she said.

Roughly 20 types of businesses are listed as indefinitely requiring a Limited Business License, among them, art dealers, but not artists.

“I love how it says there are three simple steps to apply for a business license,” Klobas said. “Nowhere does it say artist in the documentation as being included or excluded.”

Gene Schulter, 42nd, is aware of the problem.

"He knows that there have been many artists that have been fined," said Beth Beatty, policy analyst for Schulter.

Oftentimes when representatives of the city of Chicago knock on artists’ doors requesting to see paperwork, the artists cannot present the required $250, two-year permit, Klobas said.

Efrat Stein, spokeswoman at the city of Chicago's Department of Business Affairs, said in general, if a person is unsure as to whether his practice requires a Limited Business License, he should clarify this with the city of Chicago. “If you’re engaging in business, it may not always apply to you, but the best thing to do is to ask the city to contact the office and find out whether or not it applies to them.”

“An ordinance would need to be created and produced by an alderman in order for a new limited license to be created,” Stein said.

Beatty, the policy analyst, said the alderman is looking to pass an ordiance in the near future: “[Schulter] is currently working with the department of business affairs and consumer protection and all of the artists in the industry to create an ordinance that would provide for a license title for artists that are involved," she said. "We are still in the drafting stages."