Chicago Arts District & Second Fridays

chicago arts district pilsen second fridays
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Are you a fan of art? How bout free booze? Interested in getting out and doing something fun and unique in the city? Well, we’ve got the event for you: the Chicago Arts District open galleries in East Pilsen. Every second Friday of the month, the artists of Pilsen open their gallery doors to the public, ready to show off their latest work.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Chicago Arts District, it’s a hub of artistic creativity centered around the 1800 block of South Halsted. Home to local, national, and international artists, the area houses more than 30 galleries, lofts, and work spaces.

The area’s low rent rates have kept this part of town a thriving art community, and the city’s only true arts district. For years the Podmajersky family has managed many of the loft and commercial spaces, becoming the largest developer in the neighborhood. (Keep an eye out for the red and blue address plates, signaling a Podmajersky property.) Three generations have headed up the company, the most recent drawing criticism from many tenants and artists. While the group started out developing inexpensive places for artists to live and work, in recent years some of the focus has shifted from fostering and cultivating the art community to an issue of control over the area. The Podmajerskys now own the majority of properties in the East Pilsen Arts District, refusing to sell.

Is the Podmajersky influence a good one? Well, that’s something you’ll have to ask the individual artists. Some feel the family has created a monopoly on the area, while others are proud and thankful that the arts scene has been kept alive. Whatever your view on the family, it’s hard to deny the influence they have had on East Pilsen and the Chicago Arts District.

Most of the artists have day jobs, so don’t expect galleries to be open during a random drop-in. If you want to check out the creativity thriving in this area, Second Fridays are a great opportunity to do so — and they’re a fun way to kick off the weekend, so why not?

Works range from traditional painting, photography and sculpture to mixed media installations and video art. Gallery owners and artists are on site to discuss their works and help visitors better understand art. Of course, if they sell a piece or two that doesn’t hurt, but it’s not the main mission of Second Friday participants. The welcome atmosphere makes it a great place to mingle, especially within the hidden courtyards connecting the rear of several galleries.

The Chicago Arts District is truly a unique part of the city, and worth a visit. Bring some friends, have a glass (or two!) of champagne, and experience an aspect of the city that may be new to you, but is steeped in a rich history.

Some cool spots to check out:

Chicago Arts District Info Center, 1821 S. Halsted — Visitor center, complete with maps and info on the galleries and Podmajersky leasing.

Artpentry, 1827 S. Halsted — Home of the original “Gentleman’s Boombox,” this studio & storefront has some of the coolest stereo systems I’ve ever seen. Fully functional and made from old tweed suitcases and wooden trunks, these amps & speakers are art in more ways than one.

Chicago Art Department, 1837 S. Halsted — A showcase for eye-catching work by young and emerging artists, including students from local outreach programs. Video installations are a regular feature here.

The Logsdon Gallery, 1907 S. Halsted. — One of my favorites in the area, this space features contemporary artwork of established and emerging artists in a variety of mediums including painting, video, photography, sculpture, and mixed media.

1932 Building, 1932 S. Halsted — Houses 35 galleries in one building.

The Essentials:
Where: Halsted between 17th and 19th Streets (Gallery maps available at 1821 S. Halsted)
When: 6-10pm, 2nd Friday of every month

    June 11, 2010
    July 9, 2010
    August 13, 2010
    September 10, 2010
    October 8, 2010
    November 12, 2010
    December 10, 2010


Jackie Berkery

About Jackie Berkery

With a strong phobia of cubicles and those three little words (“nine to five”), I am thrilled to be working on UPchicago from the comforts of my own couch at three o’clock in the morning. I love to write. I love Chicago. Hello, dream job!

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