Edward Hines National Forest by Charles Vinz

 images courtesy Hyde Park Art Center

images courtesy Hyde Park Art Center

Over the course of the fall of 2017, I worked as a consultant with artists Sara Black and Raewyn Martyn on their immersive installation at the Hyde Park Art Center called Edward Hines National Forest. My primary role was to figure out how to translate conceptual sketches into a structure that could safely carry visitors across the gallery, as well as be built in a short period of time using skilled and unskilled labor. One significant challenge of this project was to design with a high tolerance, as the primary material was recently milled red pine, which was extremely twisted and warped.

"Chicago-based artist Sara Black and Aotearoa New Zealand artist Raewyn Martyn transform Hyde Park Art Center’s Gallery 1 into an immersive built landscape constructed in response to the far-reaching timber industry that grew out of the south branch of the Chicago River. The exhibition, “Edward Hines National Forest,” introduces a site-specific installation that traces the material processing of trees, from plant to lumber and cellulose, to produce hybrid forms that expose the complex relationship between people, human-made objects and the natural ecosystem.

“Edward Hines National Forest” will create a temporary extension of the existing catwalk above the gallery space, enabling visitors to walk on and through the sculpture and painting. The lumber used to build the structure, as well as the cellulose extracted to create the biopolymer paint, are both derived from red pine trees exposed to the fungus Diplodia pinea. These trees from Hayward, Wisconsin are genetic descendants of the old-growth Northwoods, now fully deforested by the Edward Hines Lumber Company during the late 19th and early 20th Century, headquartered in Chicago. The disease is an artifact of such extractionist practices and the global trade of Diplodia-exposed nursery plants.

Adapting the values and functions of a National Forest System, “Edward Hines National Forest” recognizes ongoing land use by humans as connected to past, present and future anthropogenic alteration of our ecological and climate systems. As intensive land use continues, government environmental protections are diminished, and the staff of the USDA and Forest Service are censored from using the phrase ‘climate change’. In this exhibition, and the accompanying Use Book, the artists and contributors raise questions about ecological support structures, systems, and even the architecture of democracy itself."

Edward Hines National Forest was primarily supported by and featured in the Chicago Architecture Biennial.

Hotel Svala by Charles Vinz

 a view of the hotel from across a meadow

a view of the hotel from across a meadow

In September, I was invited to join a small and varied group of creative individuals on a tiny island in the Finnish archipelago of Åland called Kumlinge. There we joined Jannika and Sage Reed, the mother/daughter team behind Hotel Svala, to help in whatever ways we could to move forward their beautiful and unique vision of transforming an old hotel into something more. Something part artist residency, part co-workation retreat, part holiday, and very much a gateway to learning about the unique culture and history of that corner of the world.

We painted, installed floors, built a kitchen, moved and cleaned things, and made bigger plans for the future. We also ate mounds of smoked fish, cheese, and butter, swam in the bracing baltic sea, sauna'd on the shore, hung out with sheep, foraged for wild berries, went fishing, hiking, biking, ferrying, stargazing, and connected with an amazing group of individuals.

I also got bitten by ticks.

PUBLIC SCHOOL by Charles Vinz

 gymnasium flooring stage/table at Hyde Park Art Center

gymnasium flooring stage/table at Hyde Park Art Center

Over the past year, I've had the pleasure of working with Jim Duignan as the inaugural artist-in-residence at the Rebuilding Exchange, which is something I'd been trying to establish since getting involved there over 2 years ago. Jim and I met over 10 years ago through AREA Chicago, and I first worked with him almost exactly 10 years ago doing a program called "How We Build" at the Hyde Park Art Center for his show Pedagogical Factory. 

Jim has been planning an anniversary show of sorts, called PUBLIC SCHOOL, which opened a few weeks ago at HPAC and runs through June 25. Watching it come together during his time at Rebuilding Exchange, as well as helping out in big or small ways with figuring some of the pieces out, has been a great learning experience.

We were able to fabricate a number of things through RX Made, including a series of very simple yet elegant stools, and a large stage/table made of reclaimed gymnasium flooring. The flooring is one of many elements meant to evoke the familiar sensibilities of school buildings and childhood.

There are workshops and programming planned throughout the course of the show, some of which I will be helping organize and participating in. 

OX BOW Fall Residency by Charles Vinz

This past fall, I had the honor and privilege to attend the Ox Bow School of Art and Artist Residency as a fully supported artist in residence for 3 weeks. I was given the time, space, and support to pursue some studio-based work that so rarely get the opportunity to work on.

I focused on exploring more fabric and textile based work, expanding on the experimental hand weaving I've been doing in fits and starts for the past few years, as well as exploring the world of natural plant-based dyes and resins. In keeping with my practice of working primarily or entirely with found and reclaimed materials, I brought no supplies with me, and spent the first several days gathering used clothing and other textiles.

Once I had a good chunk of these materials pulled together, I organized them around various "situations" based on color, form, and source to develop different narratives for each. The practice of tearing apart these discarded materials, then weaving them back together in different configurations proved revealing in a multitude of ways.

There are many wonderful things to appreciate about Ox Bow, but the two most salient ones to me are all the people involved - staff and fellow artists in residence alike - and the surrounding landscape. Set on a lagoon with dunes to separate us from Lake Michigan, daily routines always involved making time to watch the sunset, check out what other people were working on, and having a bonfire, all in a place that has been doing this for over 100 years and that has hosted thousands of artists.

Galien Residence Officially Occupied! by Charles Vinz


The single family home I designed for a young couple in Galien, MI last year became officially occupiable earlier this year. While there was still a fair amount of work to get done both inside and out, everything was there for the owners, who acted as their own GC, to move in and make it a home.

I visited back in May and took a few pictures. Hopefully I'll have some more final pictures coming soon!