“Like a scarlet pane of firelight shining from a brick-and-mortar facade, a red door on the 1700 block of North Wells announces the presence of a little piece of magic in the Old Town neighborhood.
“‘You just walk beyond that barrier and you leave your life behind—a calm washes over you and you’re in this little village that Edgar Miller created,’ says psych-folk singer-songwriter Ty Maxon. ‘Being surrounded by that creativity woke something up inside of me.’
“Maxon is recalling his time as an artist in residence at the Glasner Studio in June 2018. The residency was arranged by local nonprofit Edgar Miller Legacy, which facilitates an exchange between the public and the works left behind by polymathic artist and designer Edgar Miller—they include paintings, stained glass, wood carvings, murals, and ‘handmade homes’ such as the Glasner (which can include all of the above). The future of these artist residencies is in doubt, in no small part due to the pandemic, but they began in 2017: several times per year, the owner of a home that Miller designed has granted a local experimental artist access to it as a workspace. Each residency has concluded with a performance or exhibition of the work conceived in the home.
“Born in Idaho in 1899, Edgar Miller moved to Chicago at age 17 to study at the School of the Art Institute and jump-start his career as an artist and designer. On a 1923 poster advertising an arts event called the Cubist Ball, Miller was described as ‘the blond boy Michelangelo,’ and he rapidly made a name for himself with his multidisciplinary approach to art and design. During the 1920s and ’30s, he helped build a handful of live-work spaces for artists on the north side of Chicago, including the Carl Street Studios and the Kogen-Miller Studios, of which the Glasner is a part—he arranged salvaged tiles in folksy mosaics, carved ornate figures into wooden joists, and painstakingly arranged pieces of found glass into geometric marvels.
“To ‘Edgarize’ these homes, Miller drew from a toolbox of influences that included Native American totems, Mexican modernism, art deco, and French impressionism. Though he was a master of confluence, his work remains largely overlooked by the fine-art world because of his uncategorizable style. Without Edgar Miller Legacy, it might have faded into obscurity after he died in 1993.
“Spurred by the untimely 2013 death of his uncle Mark Mamolen, a fierce Miller preservationist, Zac Bleicher partnered with like-minded art fans and family members to found Edgar Miller Legacy in 2014. This organization not only works to preserve Miller’s creations but also helps make them available as an educational resource for academic institutions.” (Shreibak, Chicago Reader, 11/24/21)
Edgar Miller’s handmade homes have become wellsprings of inspiration for local artists; Young nonprofit Edgar Miller Legacy has created a residency program inside the polymathic artist and designer’s own beautifully detailed creations. Shannon Nico Shreibak, Chicago Reader, 11/24/21
A New Virtual Tour Takes Us Inside Architect Edgar Miller’s Masterwork; Seen by few until now, Glasner Studio in Chicago’s Old Town is a rich mix of stained glass windows, wood carvings, tilework and bas-reliefs, Liz Logan, Smithsonian Magazine, 12/10/20