Expert Advice from Vincent Uribe

Founding Director, LVL3 and Director of Exhibitions and External Relations, Arts of Life

A man in a t-shirt with tattoos stands in front of a white-walled gallery space

Vincent Uribe at LVL3. Photo by Greg Stephen Reigh (BFA 2013)

Vincent Uribe at LVL3. Photo by Greg Stephen Reigh (BFA 2013)

by Genny Ramos

Running a gallery was not part of Vincent Uribe’s (BA and BFA 2013) plan. But as a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), neither was residing in a live/work space he would eventually inherit.

The Los Angeles native became immersed in the Chicago art community and as a sophomore—inspired by the idea that a gallery “can be someone’s living room”—transformed a live/work space into what is now LVL3, a Chicago-based, artist-run gallery and digital publication featuring emerging and mid-career artists. Here is an excerpt from our conversation with him.

What was your student experience like?

From the minute I got to Chicago, I wanted to take advantage of every opportunity. I got pulled into living at LVL3 when it was a live/work space with occasional gallery programming, and after about four or five months, it fell under my control. I was interested in learning about artist-run spaces and putting on shows. A friend volunteered to make our first website, and a couple of friends volunteered their hours to help me paint. I had never curated a show but went for it.

You have said you questioned yourself after starting LVL3. That led you to SAIC’s Department of Visual and Critical Studies and your dual degree. Can you expand on that?

I was doing these exhibitions, but I wasn't confident in the text, reasoning, and explanation. I wanted to challenge myself a little bit more academically and take advantage of the opportunity as a student to do one more year of school for a second degree. I was trying to get the most out of that experience so I could leave with a better understanding and more confident approach to what I was starting to do.

What have you learned as a curator?

I consider my art practice as bringing people together through exhibitions and events. I don't really do solo presentations because I prefer interactions with multiple artists. It’s about building community with one another, and that's the thing that I've continued to learn and grow within.

This past year was challenging for galleries. What were your experiences like?

This last year was a big challenge in terms of not being able to do things the way that we normally would, but the reality of having to pause and rethink things was the best thing that could have happened to me. I was approaching burnout with programming three different gallery spaces between LVL3 and Arts of Life’s two Circle Contemporary galleries. I’ve since been able to recalibrate and feel like I'm in a much healthier place with my work-life balance. I feel indebted to the city that has brought me many opportunities. A part of the reason I do the work that I do is to give back to Chicago for providing the place and support to discover who I am as a leader. Promoting and connecting people in Chicago is integral to my mission of community building.

What advice would you have given yourself when you first started your career?

I feel strongly about doing the things that interest you, and not because of a perceived outcome. Too many students feel like they need to go into a specific field because that's where the money is. If you're not interested in learning and working on the computer, then don't do it. I took classes in many different departments. Having those experiences all led me to where I’m at today.