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Meet Edra Soto of The Franklin in East Garfield and Humboldt Park

Today we’d like to introduce you to Edra Soto.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
The Franklin is the response of my relationship with the artist-run community in Chicago. After grad school (Alumna SAIC 2000), I found visibility though exhibiting at alternative spaces run by artists. I also learned about the diverse communities that were a part of that movement. Years later, through that visibility I had my first solo exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Chicago. This experience help me understand and value the power of visibility. After moving to a single family home in East Garfield Park with my husband. I felt strongly about hosting exhibitions at out home. My husband didn’t want to live in a flux situation. This forced us to think about other ways of accomplishing the new goal of hosting art exhibitions. We had the opportunity to collaborate in a project we titled LIVING by Example, after Martha Stewart Magazine “Living’, riffing on the DIY aspect of the project. We presented an unfinished version of The Franklin featuring works from our art collection. We have an art collection that grew throughout the years. Many of the works of our collection come from non-profit exhibition spaces or trading art with other artists. We have a beautiful group of work that was given to us by artists that showed at The Franklin, in gratitude for giving them a space to present their work. The Franklin became a new model that contributes to the variety of existing artist run spaces in Chicago, rather than an addition. We designed The Franklin based on gazedo models. The Franklin is an outdoor structure, with 6 walls that are removable, a roof, a deck and a decorative facade that brings ventilation, light, partial visibility and a graphic component that artists and curators can use as a a complementary springboard.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It has been remarkable. There’s this one couple of incidents were the work was not fully apt for the space and it kept flying away… we have a policy that informs all the parties involved installations expectations and what is possible and impossible at The Franklin.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
The Franklin is a unique model in the city, designed by us and fabricated by Navillus Woodworks (my husband company/Dan Sullivan). We don’t use the word business to describe us. We describe us as a project space that provides visibility to artist and curators from Chicago and aboard. I do all possible to promote the events and get press. We have gotten great features… nothing national or international but many features that we are very proud of. Each time an artist or curator gets validated is a proud moment for us.

What were you like growing up?
I grew up in a conservative environment in Puerto Rico. I attended a catholic school. I think my affinity for installation work, stages and spaces for congregation comes from my experiences of attending to church. Also, I was extremely shy. I love – and still love – watching movies and listening to music.

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