CHICAGO MAGAZINE-ON THE BEAST

You Should Know Chicago Artist John Preus

Meet the guy who turned salvaged furniture from closed Chicago Public Schools into art for his new show, The Beast.

A rendering of a bull sculpture at John Preus’s show, The Beast.   PHOTO: COURTESY OF THE HYDE PARK ART CENTER
Other people’s trash is John Preus’s treasure. The Chicago artist has spent the last several months turning salvaged furniture from several of the 50 closed Chicago Public School campuses into new furnishings such as a porch swing made from student desks and chairs. The various pieces have all been assembled within a giant bull sculpture at the Hyde Park Art Center as part of Preus’s new show,The Beast opening on April 13. 

In anticipation of the show, and the many potlucks and jam sessions that will take place in the the belly of the beast (literally), Preus sat down with ChicagoHere are four quotes from the interview.

On finding materials to make furniture:

“I apprenticed with a great furniture maker in Minnesota, where I’m from. [I find] things that are pretty far down the line of desirable. A lot of the furniture I make ends up being wood. It’s plentiful and people are always throwing it away. Lately I’m trying to incorporate plastic and carpet.”

On using furniture from closed CPS classrooms:

“There’s pathos in the CPS furniture that’s not in other stuff. It has a charged political myth that comes out viscerally when you’re in the presence of it. The closing of some 50 schools signifies a dramatic directional shift in how we think about public life.”

On potlucks:

“There’s always the bag of chips, or 5-pack of beer. It’s all good. If there’s only carrots and chips that’s fine. It’s just a simple gesture of a shared energy.”

On sharing stories:

“People show up, put their name in a hat, if you get drawn you have 5 minutes to tell a true story. I like that moment of vulnerability.”

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