Cody Hudson on Being Embraced by Chicago
The multimedia artist talks about moving to Chicago, the formation of his agency, Struggle Inc., and his Jordan Brand collaboration.
Though artist Cody Hudson was born in Wisconsin, he’s made Chicago his home and creative hub. The 48-year-old met his wife there, his daughters were born there and has headquartered his agency, Struggle Inc., in the city. Community has always been paramount for Cody, as evidenced by Struggle Inc.’s early work, which included flyers for friends’ parties and shows. The commercial work followed not long after, in the form of apparel, skateboards, record covers and everything in between. Then came commissions like the permanent installation Cody has at the Sox-35th train stop on the South side and multiple collaborations with local creatives, too.
Simply put, Cody’s art and design work brings people together, and he’ll say it’s a result of putting himself out there and working hard. In the very beginning, Cody learned the fundamentals of graphic design by doing. His lack of formal arts training explains his playful use of color and abstract shapes; he doesn’t follow the rules as much as he deconstructs them, rebuilding stars and flowers from the ground up and creating what he calls his “graphic language” in the process. The end product is simple yet recognizable.
While coming up with ideas for his pieces in the Jordan Chicago Collaborators’ Collection, a hoodie and long-sleeve T-shirt inspired by the train’s Orange Line, Cody found himself fondly remembering MJ’s heyday, including streets filled with fan celebration. That energy, according to Cody, is undeniable.
Get to know Cody below and why he believes in the power of a transit system that connects a city and its culture.
What inspiration did you take from the way the train system connects people throughout the city?
It’s great to see how far you can get on a train line. When I first moved here, it let me explore so many areas of the city that I hadn’t been to. The train brings people together, from the North, South and West; it helps us all connect more.
You’ve lived in different cities and worked all over the world, yet you decided to make Chicago your home. What is it about the city that made you want to set up shop here?
Chicago has become a very special and important place to me. It’s become my home. It’s embraced me and let me do things in my life and career that I never thought were possible. Chicago has always been there for me.
“The train brings people together, from the North, South and West; it helps us all connect more.”
You’ve said before that you didn’t have a traditional arts education. What advice would you give to young artists who are following a similar journey?
It’s interesting. I always thought that things have worked out for me, because I’ve focused on what I really enjoy, and then built a career around it. I started doing flyers for friends, and then that turned into more commercial work. Much of it came from me just putting myself out there in the world and meeting people, as well as bringing people together. That slowly turned into an actual career and business.
What drew you to this Jordan Brand collaboration?
It was the history of Jordan; the connection to this city is so intense. At the peak of everything, you’d walk out onto the street, and the city would be going nuts. It brought such an amazing energy. Having the opportunity to collaborate with Jordan Brand is a pretty incredible opportunity. I felt like I had to see where it could go.
If you were going to write a letter to Chicago, what would you say in it?
Dear Chicago, thank you. Thank you for embracing me. Thank you for allowing me to have a life I didn’t really think was possible.
You put “All One” on your Jordan Chicago Collaborators’ Collection graphics. What does that phrase represent to you?
We were talking about bringing people together, and I wanted to find a way to use my own verbiage and graphic language to make that work. I kept thinking about what UNITE means to me. Hopefully, we can all become more “one” instead of being so separate and in our own zones. The train does that well; you can connect from one side of the city to the next. That’s what “All One” means to me —bringing everyone together.
How have you seen basketball culture and art really bring the city together in the time that you’ve lived here?
When a Chicago team is doing well, the energy is contagious. When a Chicago team wins, you walk out onto the streets, and the whole city is going nuts, hugging and going crazy. I’ve never seen people get together like that in any other way. It’s a pretty magical experience, seeing how sports can connect all of these people.
The full Jordan Chicago Collaborators’ Collection releases globally starting February 15.