As a Chicago native with a lifelong interest in the arts, Elysabeth Alfano has seemingly done it all: She’s run a glass art gallery and an accessories design company; she’s taught “Marketing on a Shoestring” at Columbia College; and she turned her TV show idea into the reality that is “Fear No ART Chicago,” which airs on WTTW Ch. 11.
To say Alfano conjured the show from the ether wouldn’t be an exaggeration. The journey involved lots of cold calling to television networks; even when WTTW gave a green light, they couldn’t offer any funding. So Alfano aggressively courted her own sponsors, and during the worst economic downturn in recent memory, she landed quite the team: The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, Columbia College (the exclusive “Fear No ART Chicago” educational partner), The Chicago Fashion Foundation, and Le Cordon Bleu.
The East Rogers Park resident — who traces her roots on her father’s side to Agrigento, Sicily — considers it a mission to make art relatable. “‘Fear No ART’ means exactly that,” she says. “Usually art shows are all about ostracizing the public, wanting to alienate them and only speak to people with PhDs. This show aims at being all-inclusive and reaching a large audience though an accessible and natural format.”
To that end, Alfano features not just painting and sculpture, but also music, food, dancing, theatre, authors and designers. Wherever she sees passion and vibrancy, she’ll show with camera in tow. Alfano credits her tireless work ethic largely to her dad — who skipped four grades and became a doctor despite growing up poor and speaking no English before first grade. “He had a great flair for life — food and travel — and art,” Alfano recalls. “Music was everywhere is our household: jazz and opera, and my father played the sax. These things gave him great joy.”
As for what gives Alfano joy, it’s how “art is about commitment. It’s not about fame; it’s not about recognition. It’s about doing something every day, living and breathing it, through commitment and drive. Most artists don’t have a choice. They have to create. There is not other option.”
Alfano knows the feeling. She’s working on another art show that will launch in 2012, and hints that this companion to “Fear No ART” will be live.
In the meantime, her mission with the program that started it all remains clear. “Everyone is fascinated with the life of the artist/designer and getting in their studio,” she says. “What are they thinking? Why are they so crazy? How can they charge that much? How do they live? What are the inspirations? So I thought I would create a TV show that would take people behind the scenes into artists’ studios in the hopes of opening up the arts to a wider public — and bridging the gap.”
Learn more about “Fear No ART Chicago” by visiting www.fearnoartchicago.com and join the subscribe list to receive two web videos a month, on discovering the artist going behind the art in private studios. You can also find Alfano on Facebook.