Mission + History

Honey Pot Performance at the Winter 2014 Open House, credit Ryan Borque

Honey Pot Performance at the Winter 2014 Open House, credit Ryan Borque


High Concept Labs (HCL) supports artists and facilitates dialogue between artists, audiences, and staff. This increases access and transparency to the artistic process and fosters transformational experiences in an environment of experimentation and discovery.


Willy Chyr- Systems/Process

Willy Chyr – Systems/Process, 2011

Since its foundation in 2009, High Concept Labs (“HCL”) has been providing Chicago artists with flexible, affordable space in which to develop projects and new works.  HCL began by sharing the only thing it had to offer – space – specifically, a warehouse located in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood, that artists could use to develop their projects.  Over the course of its first year, HCL evolved into a full-fledged arts service organization, assisting artists with administration, publicity, and production. From inception, HCL’s goal was simple: to grow art.

In 2010, HCL created the Sponsored Artist Program (“SAP”), a four-month residency program available to selected artists from a range of artistic disciplines, designed to provide customizable support services. The SAP serves as HCL’s artistic foundation.  SAP applicants submit a project or proposal which they would like to develop during their residency. Vetted by HCL’s Artistic Advisory Council, artists accepted into the SAP receive access to a 2,000 square foot studio space, marketing support, event support, equipment access, artistic support, and documentation services (photography and video) at no cost.  

The Moving Architects at Spring Open House 2012

The Moving Architects at Spring Open House 2012


High Concept Labs has two main programs for working artists: the Sponsored Artist Program (a four-month residency) and an Institutional Incubation Program (a year-long residency). The goal of both programs is simple: to facilitate dialogue between HCL’s artists, HCL’s audience, and HCL’s staff through a diverse range of programs each season.  Programs include Artist Talks, Works-in-Progress Showings, Workshops, Performances, and Critique Sessions. Through conversation, artists have the opportunity to solicit feedback from participants and audience members, providing them with valuable insight as a work progresses. Audience members are able to see works in progress and engage with the artists, opportunities that they might not otherwise have, all while an artistic work is still in its nascent phase.

Additionally, HCL hosts two major events each season: an Open House and a Send-Off. The Open House takes place halfway through each season. Historically, these events have brought in 200-300 attendees and feature installations and performances by past and current Sponsored Artists. The Send-Off takes place near the end of each season and is the last opportunity for the Sponsored Artists of each season to showcase their art in a more intimate environment.

Opera Cabal, 2016

Finally, HCL also regularly hosts a Cultural Conversations Lecture Series, day-long symposiums on various topics relating to the artistic community. Past events include a symposium on Dance and Dramaturgy done in partnerships with the Chicago Dancemakers Forum on May 9, 2015 and a symposium on Literature and Poetry in partnership with Northwestern University, the Point Magazine, and Young Chicago Authors on May 7, 2016.

Learn more about our Staff, Board of Directors, and our Artistic Advisory Council.