Many new and established art galleries function as gallery spaces and homes. Outside the clusters of galleries, these spaces, such as Pilsen’s Antena, Oak Park’s Suburban and Albany Park’s Swimming Pool Project Space make room for art beside the furniture. Profit is not the motive; rather, it’s all about exposure, for artists and viewers, and creative expression. “We have an art world that doesn’t value artists,” notes Michelle Grabner, co-owner of the nine-year-old Suburban gallery. “Dealers and curators are running the shots, artists really don’t have the kind of control and decision making they once had.”
Filling that void, art spaces such as Suburban and Antena allow artists free reign in terms of artistic and curatorial control. Antena, a new space that opened in March, is run out of founder Miguel Cortez’s apartment. “Artists are allowed to repaint the walls, transform the space for a show,” Cortez says, who shifted focus to his new space after running Pilsen’s Polvo gallery for years. Polvo continues to publish a quarterly magazine with artist profiles.
Art openings at both Suburban and Antena provide a gathering spot for the arts community. At Suburban, openings now take place on Sunday afternoons in the yard of Grabner’s house, with bratwurst and beer during the warm months, coffee and sweets during the winter. Antena’s openings, which take place in Cortez’s apartment, are equally informal. And through these events artists gain access to networks and visibility.
“We are neither a commercial nor a non-profit space,” notes Grabner. And the same goes for Antena, which aims to be a forum for artists in need of a middle ground alternative space.
Swimming Pool Project Space, opened July 2008, appearing as a commercial storefront, provides a springboard for emerging contemporary artists from Chicago and abroad. Pool parties—openings that take place around the glossy blue wooden floor that resembles a swimming pool—provide a place for artists and community members to interact. “This where people meet, artists or not, it’s public space where conversation occurs, not a bar but an art space,” says co-owner Liz Nielsen. The next exhibition, “Video as Video: Rewind to Form,” is curated by art critic Alicia Eler and artist Peregrine Honig, and opens September 20. (Marla Seidell)