Cream Co. aims to collapse boundaries between the individual and the group, art and life, the mind and the senses.

We are a group of artists that share a commitment to using art as a social science and as a way to create interactive installations that propose alternative economies based on sharing. Established in 2000, our Chicago-based studio operates as a lab-of-sorts where we grow and look at live plants, wilting flowers, and self-sprouting succulents. We methodically record what we see, with painting, with sculpture and with plants. We use paint to catalogue the rates plants grow, how petals decay, and how light can support a plant in one context and hurry its demise in another. We use sculpture to record things like the power of the sun as it reveals itself through shadows on our studio floor. We use plants to measure how other plants fade and grow. In addition to our studio practice, we have a public practice where we use plants, especially heirloom tomato and herb plants, to create call-and-response installations that aim to turn public spaces into creative exchange sites and to empower urban dwellers to grow heirloom and conservation plants. We consider sites, ask what can we do to invite public improvisation, and trust others to use our works to work creatively. Each site evolves organically through exchanges made by the community and each site becomes a portrait-of-sorts of the audience that engages with the work. Often, public interactions with our work become stunning records of generous and hopeful gestures.

All in, we see ourselves in plants and we see what plants can do.

Our Projects

What We Do

General Economy, Exquisite Exchange (G.E.E.E.)
Cream Co. uses plants, handmade signs and hand-crafted furniture to transform indoor and outdoor spaces into functional trading posts. Part-potlucks and part-interactive installations, G.E.E.E. sites bring to life alternative modes of exchange sustained by the give and take of neighborly rituals and propose alternative economies based on improvisation and sharing.
We look closely at small patches of color in wilting flowers, growing plants and changing skies and translate these perceived moments into color. We then collectively analyze our findings and make large-scale paintings that aim to show conclusions from our experiments regarding the color and shape of time.
We use leftover paint, grid structures and plants to make living sculptures.
Bob Bergman works alongside Cream Co. to create beautifully hand-crafted, multi-purpose furniture pieces.
We transform traditional gallery spaces into multi-functional sites for community exchange and shared artistic experiences. Including G.E.E.E., our installations and performances, grounded in social practice interaction, invite others to improvise: to write a poem or draw; to plant a bulb or record the color of the sky; to trade a thought or share a plant. Through our installations, we mean to disclose new modes for making meaning through creation and wonder.
Farm and Food
Grounding our entire practice, is a passion for earth, in general, and growing heirloom tomatoes, in particular. This passion has yielded paintings drawn from the colors of tomatoes, the annual distribution of approximately 5,000 heirloom tomato seedlings in Chicago through creative exchanges, and the establishment of community-made Abundance Gardens. In 2015, the passion led us to Lotus Flower Farm in southwestern Michigan where we are building a fruit forest and farming heirloom tomatoes on a large-scale.


Exhibitions, Collections and Awards

Past Exhibitions (selected)
Navy Pier, DePaul University Art Museum, Columbia College, the Logan Center for the Arts, the Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago), Berkeley Art Museum, the Fleming Museum, the Hyde Park Art Center, Rijks Academie (Netherlands) and Song Song (Vienna).
Permanent Collections (selected)
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, New York, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Depaul University Art Museum, Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Whitney Museum Of American Art, New York.

Awards and Related Experience

Participant, Culture and Ecology Pop-Up, University of Chicago (2015), High Concept Laboratories Sponsored Artist (2014) Guest Lecturer, School of the Art Institute, Chicago (2013), Union Art Center, Omaha, residency (2012), Hyde Park Art Center resident artist (2011-2012), Yaddo residency (Marie Krane, 2012), Participant re “Failure”, Aesthetics and Politics, Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory (2010), Artadia Award Finalist (2008), Visiting Artist, School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2008), Guest member, Advanced MFA Committee, School of the Art Institute of Chicago (Marie Krane, 2007) Guest speaker, graduate seminar, “Postminimalism”, School of the Art Institute of Chicago (Marie Krane , 2007), Artadia Awardee Featured Artist, Studio Tour, ArtChicago (2007).

Scholarship and Exhibitions Catalogues (selected)

  • Quinn, A. Peters. Essay. Service Media: Is it “Public Art” or is it Art in a Public Space? Ed.
  • Keeler, Stuart. Intro by Carol Becker, Green Lantern Press, 2013.
  • Elkins, James. “Marie Krane Bergman and Cream Co.”. Exhibition catalogue.Chicago: DePaul University Art Museum. 2011.
  • Elkins, James. Naef, Maja. What is an Image, Penn State Press. 2011.
  • Jacob, Mary Jane. “The Experience of Experience”, Exhibition catalogue. 2009.
  • Elkins, James. Six Stories from the End of Representation, Stanford University Press, 2008.
  • Brown, Bill. “The World Collected”. California: San Diego Museum of Art, 2007.
  • Brown, Bill. “Art, Administration, and the Poetics of Perpetuation”. Exhibition catalogue. Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago, 2006.
  • Hankins, Evelyn. “New Turf.” Exhibition catalogue. Vermont: Robert Hull Fleming Museum, 2005.


Want to help us?


Our public project, General Economy, Exquisite Exchange (G.E.E.E.), is a Fractured Atlas sponsored project. Fractured Atlas is a 501(c)(3) public charity. Contributions for the purposes of General Economy, Exquisite Exchange (G.E.E.E.) are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.