It was less than two weeks before the start of Pitchfork, and all Anna Cerniglia knew about the geometric village she’d been contracted to build in Union Park was that it would consist of two small huts designed by the artists Chad Kouri and Heather Gabel. Or maybe one large pyramid. It all depended on Pitchfork’s safety regulations. She didn’t know where in the park it would be located or which carpenter would do the actual construction. But she had the funding—AJ Capital Partners, the group that owns the Thompson Hotel and Hotel Lincoln, had granted her proposal—so, sitting on a couch in New Wave Coffee in Logan Square, scrawling a to-do list in her notebook, she was remarkably calm. By the time the festival started, a village would exist.
Cerniglia, 32, is a freelance producer who connects people who make art with people who can support art. Though she’s the founder and director of Johalla Projects, a gallery in West Town, she believes that art should exist where anybody can experience it, and has worked with many street and public artists, including Nick Adam and Thunder Circus. She’s also used to completing staggering amounts of work on a very short time line. She’d recently spent six weeks working 16-hour days to get an abandoned warehouse ready for Soho House Chicago’s opening party, a production that involved four art installations, including a wall made of lasers. She’s arranged installations at Lollapalooza and murals by Chicago artists in el stations in Wicker Park and Logan Square.
“Once you do it a few times,” she says, “you sleep for a few days and you’re fine. It’s so satisfying.”
She’s also a Pitchfork veteran: two years ago she produced a 100-by-19-foot installation called These Moments. This year she sat down with Michael Renaud, Pitchfork’s creative director, and Daniel Schor, head of asset management at AJ Capital, to talk about what they could do for the festival. Cerniglia wanted to give visitors a more conceptual art experience than the one they’d get in the printmaking or craft tents. Gabel’s structure would contain work for sale, while Kouri’s would show off the wallpaper he produces with Tan & Loose Press; the shape of the structures themselves would create interesting shadows.
With ten days to go, Cerniglia finally got the OK to build two small A-frame huts near the southern border of Union Park. After the festival, the huts will move to the Thompson and Lincoln hotels.
“Our intent is to make something different for Pitchfork guests,” Cerniglia says. “Pitchfork is curated. They’re very particular about how they put together sets. We’re particular about what we want people to experience. It fits. I hope the guests get something from it. It’s a hard environment to work in. No one gives a shit about art. It’s a good challenge.”