The J e l l o Performance Series strives for full artist visibility and inclusivity by creating space for accessible, low-stakes, supportive performance opportunities throughout the city of Chicago.
Like Jell-O, the series is easily made. It jiggles, it morphs, it can take any form. All you need is a few simple ingredients to create a delicious masterpiece… sticky, sweet, and satisfying. This is the motivation behind every J e l l o show. An artist has an idea; J e l l o provides the space to explore that idea.
The J e l l o Performance Series was created in response to a need in the Chicago dance community for a space where performing artists of all experience levels and disciplines could come together to share their work and support each other. The series values and upholds a safe, low-stakes, supportive environment, where anyone at any stage of their career can show any iteration of an idea on stage. In its evolution, J e l l o curators have expanded the series to different venues, imagining different ways a show could take form. J e l l o provides the space for curators and artists alike to try, risk, experiment, create, and be in community.
The series also serves as an opportunity for professional development for artists at no cost by providing free video documentation of the performances, as well as compensating artists for performing.
The J e l l o Performance Series was founded in January of 2017 by performance artist Jessica Cornish. Her goal was to bring together new and established artists into one space, sharing their art and building community. After two very successful shows at Links Hall, Jessica passed the series to Tuli Bera and Carla Gruby (two new artists in Chicago at the time). Soon after, Brice Hartmann (software engineer) joined the team to create the J e l l o website and portal--a true game changer to manage the series.
In May of 2017, Bera formed and solidified a relationship with Elastic Arts with the intent of involving Elastic’s experimental music community. In 2018, Bera also curated a show at Comfort Station involving aerial acts, dance for camera and movement classes, thus expanding on what the J e l l o Performance Series could support.
In Fall of 2018, Sarah Stearn (new artist at the time) joined the J e l l o team as co-curator with Bera. They curated the next year of shows, with Stearn gradually taking over more responsibilities. She connected with Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, curating an improvised performance with dancers, musicians, and a camera in collaboration with the exhibit “Jerry’s Map” to ring in J e l l o’s second anniversary.
The series slowed down during the pandemic, but Stearn still made new connections and continued its expansion. With the help of CJ Fink (arts administrator) and Laura DeAngelis (dancer and photographer), Stearn hosted J e l l o’s first virtual show of dance films. J e l l o also had its first outdoor show at Loyola Beach, co-curated by Julia Schaeffer (dancer).
J e l l o has totaled 26 shows to date! The team is excited for the J e l l o story to continue as the series evolves and expands further into the Chicago artist community.
J e l l o has uplifted me by revealing my capacity for administrative work and knacks for organization, providing support, and communicating with fellow artists. Curating has allowed me to bring my own ideas to fruition - I’m able to imagine shows in (un)conventional spaces and give those ideas a try, transforming fantasy into reality. J e l l o shows me that anything is possible, especially in a low-stakes environment and with a supportive community.
It was through J e l l o that I started discovering all the artists that make Chicago such a rich and diverse arts community. I was one of thousands of artists- which is a humbling thought! I always left a show feeling so inspired. Through J e l l o I understood that to be an artist is not just to perform or share your work but also to witness others. It has been incredibly fulfilling to uplift so many artists!
For me, J e l l o has been an incredible opportunity to hone my skills and realize the ideology that technology is a tool which should be applied to benefit humankind. Art and human expression are incredibly important and in an increasingly advanced technological society they help keep us grounded in our humanity. It is an honor to be a part of the J e l l o journey and to help support local artists.