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Rachel Pomberg

A New Breed: The germination of rhizomatic frameworks and practices of artist-run organizations

            Over the course of the last thirty years, the art world in the United States has witnessed significant transformations, specifically within artist-run organizations.  The 1970s marked the emergence of artist-run spaces, in part spearheaded by a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) program. The establishment of alternative venues and exhibition opportunities for artists by artists, led to the development of specialized networks and hierarchies within the artist-run spaces, further resulting in their institutionalization. During the 1980s and early to mid ’90s, as the NEA struggled to recover from the backlash of the culture wars and art institutions became more dominant, highly professionalized and intensely hierarchical, a movement developed marked by the activism of politically minded artist collectives such as Group Material, Gran Fury, the Guerrilla Girls, and REPOHistory.

            Remaining anchored within the art world, these art activist groups, less concerned with the institution and driven by an issue-based practice, such as responding to the AIDS epidemic, began to permeate the boundaries of the art world by situating their practice at the intersections of art and society. In our current climate, as art institutions continue to be a dominant hierarchical force, and issues concerning our social, political and economic conditions continue to fall under the guise of globalism, a new generation of artist-run organizations and groups, such as Critical Art Ensemble and Temporary Services, are establishing practices which exist not at a singular point of intersection between art and society, but rather traverse across various cultural spheres.  Further, unlike the organizations of the previous decade(s), these artist-run organizations have emerged with a framework that is integral, not parallel to, their artistic practice allowing for the creation of relational networks and aesthetics.

         It is my intention to demonstrate that a new breed of artist-run organizations, which are built upon a rhizomatic framework that supports an issue-based artistic practice in collaboration with individuals, groups or organizations that operate outside of the constructs of the art world, have emerged out of the necessity to navigate the intersections of art, cultural production, and the current social, political and economic conditions. 

         Rachel Pomberg received her BA in Art History from Florida State University in 1995. Prior to attending SAIC, she was co-founder of Eyedrum, an experimental art space in Atlanta.  She is currently on staff at 1926 Exhibition Studies Space.


Thesis Advisor: Rachel Weiss, Associate Professor and Chair, Arts Administration; Exhibition Studies

Thesis Reader: Brett Bloom, Instructor, Arts Administration; Member, Temporary Services

Second Reader: Maureen Pskowski, Instructor, Arts Administration

Thesis Instructor: Nicholas Lowe, Visiting Artist, Arts Administration





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