Meet Chicago’s Community Resources Coordinator: Tim Ortiz

June 11, 2020 By catherine-norcott
A group of four people, including new staffer Tim Ortiz, at an art reception

With a background in fine art and lots of experience studying and working for progressive arts programs, we were so excited to welcome Tim Ortiz to our team as Chicago’s Community Resources Coordinator.  In his short time on the team, he’s led our initiative to invite working artists to offer studio visits during our remote programming.  He started just before Illinois started to shelter in place, so we wanted to take some time to get to know him better.  The following is a Q&A including Tim, a number of artists from both studios, and some studio staff.  

Brian Reed (BR): Where did you grow up?

Tim Ortiz (TFO): I moved around a bit throughout my childhood.  I was born in Burlington, Vermont (where Bernie Sanders was my mayor at the time) but I lived in Idaho Falls, Idaho for most of my early childhood. I then lived in Wilmington, North Carolina for a few years, and spent the rest of my youth in western New York through my high school/college years. 

Maria Vanik (MEV): Where did you go to college? And what did you study?

TFO: I went to school in western New York, at Corning Community College in Corning, New York initially, and then finished my undergraduate degree at Elmira College in Elmira, New York, after that. I studied Philosophy initially, and then majored in Art.  My art education was generally strongly focused on painting, particularly landscape painting in the Hudson River School tradition with local artists in the Corning area, and then contemporary painting, studying under a contemporary photorealist at Elmira. 

Andrew Sloan (APS): What made you decide to pursue a career in the arts?

TFO: My intuition in approaching my education was always to pursue an almost moral commitment to a pure idea of learning itself over all else.  Meaning I sought to pursue knowledge and understanding without ulterior motives such as career or even satisfying personal interests. That led me to philosophy initially but after being required to take some art classes, I eventually came to the conclusion that direct observation and experimentation in visual art was a more direct, complete, and absolute vector by which to approach and internalize the world/knowledge/understanding.  I switched courses because I saw a sort of humility in art vs philosophy, in that it’s ends tended more towards seeking/learning/and asking rather than towards describing conclusions/answers.  That appealed to me. 

Catherine Norcott (CN): You are part of a critical writing project called Disparate Minds, which centers discussion of progressive art studios.  What have you learned from writing about art?

TFO: So many things.  One of the things that motivates me most as an art writer is how much the process of writing about art is constantly teaching me about art – and about the world. I started writing about art several years after I graduated from college – primarily as a way to champion artists who I wanted to support.  Maybe the most important thing I’ve learned from it is that learning to appreciate art is actually a beautiful, wonderful, life long endeavor. Somehow, I think I used to believe that learning to appreciate or “developing an appreciation for” art was like a gateway to the art world – something that art people had, and which you had to acquire to be able to understand the world of art.  I’ve found that, in fact, growing your capacity to see and understand art, the world, and people is a never ending pursuit – one of life’s great gifts, of limitless potential. 

Tim Stone (TS): Tell us about your arts practice. 

TFO: I’m interested in grids and repeating patterns, especially seamlessly repeating patterns. Grids have become a prominent part of my own artwork, and like the way seamlessly repeating patterns contain a hidden grid – so teaching abou processes to create them is something I’ve enjoyed in the past. 

MEV: What is your dog’s name?  Will you bring your dog to Arts of Life?

TFO: His name is Donut, and I’d love to. 

You can read some of Tim’s writing as part of Disparate Minds at and see more of his work at  

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