Chicago has some outstanding art galleries that you should visit when you are in town. There are several areas where you can find groups of galleries located near each other. Many feature special events and art walks throughout the year.
The River North Arts District has been one of my favorite places to visit in Chicago for many years. Though some galleries have left over the last few years due to increasing rents, there are still a large number of galleries to visit. Throughout the year there are a number of art walks and gallery openings on the first Friday of each month. The big event is the first Friday after Labor Day, when all of the galleries are open and wine and snacks are served. My favorite galleries include:
Carl Hammer Gallery: Located at 740 N. Wells, the gallery specializes in contemporary, self-taught and outsider artists from Europe & America.
Vale Craft Gallery: A personal friend, Peter Vale, has owned this gallery at 230 W. Superior in 1992. He features ceramics, jewelry, textiles, wood, metal, glass, mixed media and sculpture by mostly local artists, which now totals around 80.
Gruen Galleries is located 226 W Superior. This large gallery features, paintings, encaustic paintings, sculpture and more.
Jean Albano Gallery: The gallery features painting sculpture and mixed media. 215 W. Superior.
Zolla/Lieberman Gallery: At 325 W. Huron, they feature contemporary artwork including painters, sculptures and installation artists. It was founded in 1976.
Zg Gallery: Zg Gallery features emerging artists in all media including contemporary paintings, drawings and sculpture. 300 W. Superior.
Rosenthal Fine Art: This gallery is located at 640 N. LaSalle St., #485. They focus on Modernism, Abstract Expressionism, Post-War, and Contemporary art.
Expression Galleries of Fine Art: This gallery features paintings and lithographs from Rembrandt, Renoir, Whistler, Warhol, Calder, Klimt, Miro and Chagall. 708 N. Wells St.
The Golden Triangle: This is a really great store featuring furniture and accessories from Thailand, Myanmar and China. They are now featuring contemporary art displayed among the furniture groupings. They carry the works by Adam Siegel one of my favorite abstract painters in the city who has moved his studio from Wicker Park in the Flatiron Building to W. Fulton Market. 330 N. Clark St.
Several of the River North art galleries have moved to the West Loop over the past several years. Here you can find:
Kavi Gupta Gallery: This is one of two local galleries at 835 W. Washington. They feature a number of exhibitions by contemporary artists throughout the year.
McCormick Gallery: Also at 835 W. Washington, this is a gallery featuring contemporary artists and post-war Abstract Expressionists.
Carrie Secrist Gallery, at 835 W. Washington Blvd. #1B, this gallery features modern art in many mediums, from painting and sculpture to video and photography by emerging artists.
Primitive: Primitive is a wonderful store that presents exclusive as well as one-of-a-kind collections of furniture, artifacts, art, textiles, jewelry and fashion from all over the world. Asia and Africa are heavily represented. You will also find framed art, paintings, drawings, posters and Japanese woodblock prints. 130 N. Jefferson.
The Chicago Arts District really started in 1914 when John and Elizabeth Podmajersky, Slovak Immigrants, settled in the Pilsen East area and purchased property for a dairy. They soon bought more properties for their business and for housing of their immigrant employees. In the 1950’s, their son returned to the neighborhood to revitalize the community and converted older buildings into artists’ lofts around a series of urban gardens created from reclaimed alleys.
The third generation, John Podmajersky III, bought more properties in 1987 and in 2002 launched the Chicago Arts District with “the goal of creating a destination art community and economic stability for artists looking to become entrepreneurs”.
The District today now has a number of contiguous blocks of creative space. Live and work spaces, gallery, loft, studio, office, industrial, and exhibition space are all offered by Podmajersky, Inc. “During the last ten years, the Chicago Arts District staff, working closely with the team at Podmajersky, Inc., has supported more than 100 creative entrepreneurs in starting, growing, and marketing their art businesses.”
The 25+ galleries and studios are centered along 18th St. and south along S. Halsted in the 1700, 1800 and 1900 blocks.
2nd Fridays Gallery Night: On the second Friday of each month, the galleries and studios are open to the public. The receptions begin at 6:00 pm and run until 10:00 pm. You can get a map at 1821 S. Halsted. Weekend Galleries are also open in mid-October during the annual Pilsen East Artists’ Open House. It is a fun way to explore the neighborhood and see some great art.
Just west of the the Arts District is a great new find, Mana Contemporary, at 2233 S. Throop. This is an old warehouse building that has been turned into a major art center and destination. The building is now home to artists studios, exhibition spaces, classrooms, a central cafe, a library and more. You will find over 60 artists specializing in painting, sculpture, print making, photography, dance, film, sound, and performance work alongside each other in a campus environment. Here you will find artists from photographer Barbara Kasten to fashion designer Maria Pinto. They feature tours, exhibition and monthly art walks. They also have a similar facility in Jersey City, NJ.
With cheaper rents, Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood has become a mecca for artists to open studios in all mediums.
Zhou B Foundation: At 3302 S. Morgan is the Zhou B Foundation established by the well-known artists, the Zhou Brothers. First walk through the gallery space of the Zhou B Foundation which is tiled in white marble with museum quality lighting and filled with wonderful examples of the Zhou Brothers work. The garden, known as Life’s Garden, was created in 1999 and opened to the public in 2008.
Zhou B Art Center: This is a great loft building housing artist’s studios and galleries. They host regular monthly art walks on the 3rd Friday and special curated exhibitions showcasing works in various media from local and international artists. It is located at 1029 W. 35th St.
Bridgeport Art Center: At 35th and Racine, this is a building that has over 100 artist’s studios and galleries. The 3rd Friday Open Studios features painters, sculptors, photographers, designers, and more. During October and Chicago Artist’s Month, there are open studios as well. My favorite is the work and ceramics by Jay Strommen. Jay also founded the Chicago Ceramics Center in the building where you can take ceramics classes and workshops.
Flatiron Arts Building: At the corner of North, Damen and Milwaukee in Wicker Park, this is an 88,000 square foot structure located at the epicenter of the Wicker Park/Bucktown artist’s community. The building is chock full of galleries and artists studios on its three floors. Every first Friday of the Month, the studios are open for an art walk.
Lill Street Art Center: A great arts education center with classes on everything from painting, digital photography, jewelry, textiles to print making. There is a great store with items from students and well-known artists, like Michael Wisner from Colorado who does wonderful pottery. 4401 N. Ravenswood.