Flat Iron artists say 'Cut'

Don't want owner to film their work
By Sabrina Walters Staff Reporter Chicago Sun-Times Metro section, Saturday, June 30, 2001

Angry artists at the Flat Iron Arts Building are wagging their paintbrushes at plans to film a show similar to "Real World" to air on the Internet and on a big screen TV at the corner of Milwaukee, North and Damen.

Tenants at the building, 1579 N. Milwaukee, say it is intrusive to film them at work without their consent.

"I don't want to be filmed, and no one ever asked. They just started hanging cameras," said painter Elizabeth Buckley, 27.

Building owner Bob Berger said he simply wants to bring international attention to the 50 Chicago artists who occupy his site--which sits smack in the middle of an area that has attracted famous writers, photographers, sculptors and painters. Author Saul Bellow lived in Wicker Park, and a street in the trendy neighborhood is named for him.

"We're going on the Internet live, with mobile cameras throughout the building," Berger said.

The artists, fearful that the 24-hour broadcasts could make them vulnerable to burglaries and other attacks, want Berger to pull the plug on his film plans.

"This is public places he's talking about filming, it's not getting attention for the art," said Olga Stefan, director of Around the Coyote, an arts group.

The Flat Iron also is the center of the city's annual Around the Coyote fall art fair. Artists display their work in the hallways of the three-story building, which offers large display areas on each floor.

The building has been wired, and a large TV screen is being erected on the corner to broadcast artists at work in common areas and as they come and go from their studios.

Building engineer Jerry Dondzik said the eight cameras will deter criminals, not attract them.

"It's legal in the hallways, just not inside the rooms," Dondzik said. "The Internet is a new-generation security system. Maybe people who are doing something they shouldn't won't like it, but it's OK."

That doesn't change the way Buckley feels.

"It's not exposing my art, it's filming me. There's a Wicker Park rapist out there, and this monitor will put us at risk. They're going to be taping all of my conversations."

  *Unfortunately, the Sun-Times didn't capture the specific words and ideas of the artist, and misquoted in nearly every instance.