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Meet Zach Barnard of Zach Barnard Art in South Loop and Boystown

Today we’d like to introduce you to Zach Barnard.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I am a local artist here in Chicago. Once upon a time, my story begins with my roots raised and born in Richmond, VA. The cliché statement of “I’ve always had a paint brush in my hands ever since I can remember,” is so true it’s pathetic. Before I even knew what ART actually was, I did know one thing, I was the only child. With that I had to do a lot of time thinking of ways to entertain myself and I mean a lot of time thinking. My mother, Chase, is one of those mothers that always told me to go outside and play which I really appreciate looking back now. Playing pretend and using my imagination was the prime matrix of escape for me. Whenever I told my mother I was bored she would say things like “Oh you’re bored? Well there are plenty of things to do, like clean your room, or take out the trash or rake the yard.” Only to have her realize moments later she was standing there alone talking to herself for had I mysteriously disappeared into the walls. As you can tell, being bored wasn’t an option. Amongst the copious ways to keep my mind occupied outside and building forts inside was– tahh dahh– painting. I could paint for hours and hours. All my mother had to do was plop some Crayola water color and some computer paper to babysit me for a bit, the 90’s iPad if you will. This worked very effectively until I got hungry of course. My first master piece was at six years old of a peacock. At least I thought it was until I looked at again a few years ago and understand now what abstract truly means.

Fast forward to high school is when I really started to focus on my painting. I had an amazing art teacher, Rue Paulette, who took me under her wing and recognized my full potential. I saw her as mentor and also a fairy god mother. She urged me to be the best I could be and pushed me to do more than I thought I could. Sharing with her my newly self-accepted sexuality as a young gay man, her acceptance and guidance got me through the rigors of high school and helped me maintain my passions for art as a base for myself. My senior year had come and over coffee she asked me if I was interested in having a one-man art show. I immediately agreed in excitement. At Cafespresso, a local coffee shop, I had tasted my first bite of success. With Rues guidance and support from my family and friends I managed to successfully exhibit my first body of work inspired by my recent school trip to Italy. I sold nine out of twelve paintings and the feeling is something you can never get enough of. This fire now inside was exactly what I needed to start my college career in a new city far away from home, Chicago.

The fall of 2012 was Columbia College Chicago, the next chapter of my life. I wanted my college experience to be an odyssey, a true adventure. Moving far away from Richmond was scary to me but thrilling in the same and my heart called for it. Still having art at my side, I had also tapped into the world of theatre. Columbia offered both majors which was the highlight for me and I thought that along the way I would discover maybe I was more into one then the other. Theatre became more of my focus and I loved but I started to lose myself. After two years at school, it was in my best interest to take a year off and go home. This helped me remember who I was again remember why I came to Chicago in the first place. The summer of 2015 I had moved back to the Windy City locked and loaded. Fine art was where my heart thrived and always resided. I took on my college career once more in the goal of retrieving my BFA in Fine Art.

These last three years have been full of challenges ups and downs but all so worth coming back. I managed to be accepted into The Leigh Gallery, located in Boystown which was my first gallery acceptance. I self-produced and financed an art installation called Hidden Moments, at Danny’s Bar located in Bucktown. Something I really am now focusing on currently as an artist. Now to wrap this up because enough about me. After a long road from the day I left home, came back home, then back here again I can officially say I will be graduating this spring of 2018 and am here to stay. I can’t express how fortunate I am to live in such an artistically rich community and yearn to grow as much as I can on my journey. Lots of great things planned for 2018!

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?
There was and are of course many challenges and obstacles. Anyone who says they haven’t had any is lying. I would have to say the biggest obstacle is myself. Being and artist, I am my own business. If I don’t give back to my work then I don’t get back anything in return; as simple as that. Learning to take my self seriously, my art seriously is something I am still am working on today. If I don’t, then why should anyone else?

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Zach Barnard Art story. Tell us more about the business.
Painting is my strongest card. I tend to work with acrylic on canvas, preferring a larger scale. There is a swift, expressive gesture I have to my work. I don’t know if it’s actually how I paint or me just having absolutely no patience; I think it’s a combination of both. I love the thrill of capturing places I have either seen in real life or somewhere I visited in a dream. If you give me a favorite place I can capture it for you. I can make it come to life. I don’t just paint the “place” but how the place makes me feel, how it makes you feel.

Immersive Installation has really turned my focus as an artist in here in Chicago. I was looking at one the many places I have painted and longed for something more. I dint just want to see the place through the window of a canvas but BE in the canvas. My artistic process then changed me to ask the question if I cannot be physically with the painting (as Steve from Blue’s Clues made look oh so easy) I would have to bring the painting to me. My next proudest project I pursued was my first installation I called Hidden Moments. This took place a Danny’s Bar, a local pub in Bucktown. A place I originally wanted to paint a picture of, for that is in itself, what I love to capture on a canvas. Having permission from the owner I selected a space and created a walk-in painting. The walls were covered completely with the scene I saw in my head. A dramatic staircase that was warped and twisted. A hallway that lead down to another mysterious room. I created a grandfather clock out of cardboard that glowed softly like a tiny Big Ben and a paper Mache Phonograph that played autumn jazz like tunes mysteriously from within its box work.

This was my first take on Hidden Moments, an ongoing installation that will forever grow and contort along with me as I keep exploring deeper and deeper into this walk-in painting I manifest into real life. Having this work be so incredibly close to my identity as an artist, I am excited to have the opportunity and aid from the Weisman Award to exhibit Hidden Moments at Columbia College Chicago this fall of 2018 on a professional platform.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
With my statement concerning obstacles and triumphs I have endured before, luck personally, has no place in the outcome of my own success on a material level. I have never said “Wow, I’m so lucky,” that something happened to me just because it happened to be in my favor. Hard work and dedication is what brings about success, especially with art. Laziness and lack of enthusiasm is vice versa concerning bad luck. I will say in the defense of “luck” It is absolutely the people that have come into my life. The people I have met along the way that got me that much closer to knowing who I am and what I want to strive for. The support and guidance of individuals who pushed me to do better. Having those people in my life I will say I am very lucky to have.


  • Commisions: Acrylic on Canvas- $275= 18in x 24in (price varies by size & individual requests)

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Photographs of Hidden Moments Installation by Hanna Walkowaik Photography

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.


  1. Chase

    March 27, 2018 at 9:08 pm

    Love the article! Thanks for recognizing and supporting people who are pursuing creative careers. Artists and writers make the world a better place. Now get outside and play, Zach. Love, Yo Mama

  2. Rue Paulette

    March 27, 2018 at 11:15 pm

    Zach, I totally enjoyed this article. You have such an insight into your feelings and experiences as evidenced in your work. Thank you for taking me along on your ride.

  3. Rue Paulette

    March 27, 2018 at 11:25 pm

    What a wonderful article. It is so important to give the “up and coming “ artists a vehicle to to be present and relevant. The world needs more of this support.

  4. Sandra Chase

    March 28, 2018 at 2:38 am

    I have a Zach Barnard painting called Blue Bottles. I think his paintings turn real places into magical spaces. I love his work. Sandra

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