On the first floor of the Chicago Cultural Center is one of the largest and most representational exhibitions of artists who are making work in our city right now. Buddy is a uniquely curated gallery and shop, operated in collaboration with Public Media Institute and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. Buddy features over 200 Chicagoland artists, makers and small creative businesses, making it a living archive and “a snapshot of Chicago,” according to director Stella Brown.
Brown started Buddy in January 2020 with an open call for Chicago-based artists to display and sell their work to the public. Over the last eighteen months, Buddy has grown to support local and interdisciplinary makers online, in their shop at the Chicago Cultural Center and through programmatic initiatives. The Buddy shop is essentially hundreds of solo exhibitions on view in one place, with everything for sale at approachable prices. Buddy supports a range of artists through a rotating display of one-of-a-kind objects, including limited-edition prints, clothing, paintings, key chains, books, zines, jewelry, household items, small art objects, videos, music and ceramics with prices ranging from $1-$1,800. Most of the objects at Buddy are priced under $50 with sixty percent of all sales going directly back to their artists.
But Buddy is more than an amplified museum gift shop, it is an artist-run space, a gallery, a platform and programmatic headquarters. Over the last six months they have expanded their programming to include pop-ups across the city, a video display at the north entrance at the Cultural Center and a residency. This winter, Buddy is expanding to include a full suite of free holiday programming.
At the Millennium Park Art Market on November 19, 20 and 21, Buddy will have a pop-up shop in association with the Tree Lighting Ceremony and the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival. As with all of Buddy’s initiatives, this is more than a standard tent and wares pop-up. In addition to professional artists curated through Buddy, the Art Market will feature student artists from Marwen Youth Arts program and After School Matters—plus a heated café, pop-up programming and a special visit by Dreezy Claus November 20-21, 1pm–3pm.
On November 20 from 2pm–5pm, The Documentarian magazine, sold at the Buddy shop, will present an afternoon of free, live musical performances by Chicago artists Paige Naylor, Friedrich Andreoni and Devin Shaffer in collaboration with DCASE’s Welcome Center community space on the first floor of the Cultural Center.
Buddy is hosting a free “Meet a Buddy Artist Workshops” from 12pm–2pm on the second and fourth Fridays and Saturdays of the month through December 11. These hands-on interactions are co-hosted with GnarWare Workshop ceramic studio based in Pilsen, CCRx (Chicago Creative Reuse Exchange) in Auburn Gresham, Marimacha Monarca Press of Pilsen and Marwen Youth Arts organization in River North.
The shop is also hosting “Ornaments for All: First Annual Buddy Artist Ornament Show” at their Cultural Center location from November 26–December 31. The store will present one-of-a-kind ornaments and hanging art objects from over thirty Chicagoland artists. Each Buddy artist is selling an edition of five or more handmade ornament-art-objects under $50 for the holidays and beyond.
It is no coincidence that Buddy is located in the People’s Palace. Buddy embodies the ethos of our city and a hub for making connections between friends (hence the name). Through their multimedia efforts, Buddy “introduces the world to the people making it happen in Chicago, a place that helps them create a sustainable world we all want to work, play and live in.” The Buddy shop is a place to visit and see a wide swath of Chicagoans producing art, as well as the place to find one-of-a-kind gifts for the holidays.
Buddy is open Tuesday–Saturday 11am–5pm and Sunday 11am–4pm at the Chicago Cultural Center, 72 East Washington, and online at hi-buddy.org.