Joel Ross’s (one of the original #artatthejames artists) work has long been a staple in the public spaces of The James Chicago – from his thought-provoking travel inspired photography to the first art piece ever purchased by The James –  Room 28.

In fact, after a decade’s long stay we’re proud to say Room 28 has checked out of The James Chicago to travel the country in a seminal exhibition that will be presented alongside the artist’s many photographs, sculptures and works on paper - all of which are inspired by the varying sites and demographics that form the landscape of the U.S.

Below, learn a little more about what inspires Joel, his appreciation for the Midwest art scene and the background on the much-buzzed about Room 28.

1. Tell us about Room 28 (now on a traveling exhibition)—what’s the back story behind it?
It's an artifact of a real action taken by a fictional character. I became the character in a short story- a heartbroken drifter- and moved through the real world as that person. One of the things this character did was disassemble and pack into suitcases the entire contents of a motel room.

2. Room 28 is on a bit of its own road show over the coming months—where is it headed and how did that come together?
Yes, right now, it's in a survey show of my work that is on view at the Rockford Art Museum through January 29th. Then the piece is traveling as part of the exhibition, Baggage Claims, to several venues, including the Orlando Museum of Art in Florida, the Weatherspoon Art Museum in North Carolina, the Robert C. Peeler Art Center in Indiana; and the Weisman Art Museum in Minnesota.

3. A lot of your work explores themes around travel - what’s inspiring to you about traveling?
I have always been a traveler, curious and relentless in my pursuit of things, people and places unknown to me. With regard to my art, I'm especially interested in the role that cars and road travel play in the mythos of American culture - it’s a complicated subject with a rich history and lots of contradictions so I never run out of material. I'm especially fond of the debris (signage, architecture, people) that collects along the roadways, both the kind that pauses and then keeps blowing along, and those bits that get lodged in a crevice, take hold and seem to hang on forever.

4. What excites you about the Chicago/Midwest art scene right now?
I’ve always been encouraged by the commitment people in the art community have to our region. There are a lot of really strong artists who choose to live and work in the Midwest. You don’t need to go far to see some great work.

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