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The Windy City Blows Art All 'Round

A guide to friendly neighborhood art galleries.
Thursday Jan 01, 2009.     By Joanne Hinkel
Centerstage Chicago Nightlife City Guide Arts

Reception at Havana.
Tired of trekking to the West Loop or River North to look at art? Chicago is a big enough city that we don't have to head downtown to get our culture on. The near North Side's neighborhoods alone offer up more than 50 fine art galleries and centers devoted to painting, sculpture, mosaics, ceramics and photography. Our guide outlines some of the North Side's most accessible art galleries, not just for their location, but in terms of friendlier staffs and affordability.

Lakeview welcomes lovers of art to The Leigh Gallery
It's not that this gallery wouldn't work in another neighborhood, but it really fits the bill in Boystown. In an area that expresses itself through sex shops, multi-culti dining, coffee hangs and daring nightclubs, some cultural expression by way of fine art makes sense. For decorating the homes of nearby residents, it makes cents too. Most of the oil, acrylic and watercolor paintings sell for less than $2,000; the ceramic works, jewelry, fiber works and sculptures are mostly priced below $300. With no special exhibits, you can visit any time to catch the work of all 40 artists on board, which ranges from traditional watercolors to wildly colorful paintings. Ann Powell is a favorite; her landscapes capture the feeling of twilight to the point that they bewitch.

Arrive more inspired after visiting Andersonville's Estudiotres
In the heart of our city's Swedish neighborhood is a contemporary international art gallery. Estudio Tres' appearance in the spring of 2006 further affirmed Andersonville's identity as a home for artists, students and those living the creative life. The gallery's rotating monthly exhibits feature museum-quality artists, the conceptually and technically cutting-edge, shows devoted to community concerns, and openings with food supplied by local restaurants. A project space in the back room always features the artwork of local, emerging artists. A visit to Estudio Tres would perfectly punctuate a late morning brunch at Svea, or give you some food for thought before drinking it up at Hopleaf across the street.

Cuba meets Lincoln Park at Havana Gallery
Who knew that steps from the DePaul University campus lay a window into Cuba? In 1999 this spacious and bright space was converted from a video store into a premiere art gallery, showing the work of more than 30 Cuban and Cuban-American artists. The focus is on painting, mostly for logistical reasons: Gallery personnel head to Cuba twice yearly to collect the art on consignment, and paintings fit in suitcases more easily than sculptures! The same vivid, colorful and dynamic feel that makes up Cuban music and architecture resonates in these paintings, which are both folksy and modernist in style. The gallery participates in Lincoln Park events, such as "Shop under the Stars" (which happens in July). Gallery director Allison Hill certainly made me feel at home last time I stopped in, by offering me a root beer and great some great conversation.

Ravenswood rocks realistic painting at Gillock Gallery Chicago
Go figure. Along the Metra tracks in an industrial corridor lining one of Chicago's sleepier North Side sections, is one of the city's best stops for figurative painting. Gillock Gallery Chicago is a small, one-room space devoted to showing the fruits of hours and hours of intricate painting. While the fact that the gallery is only open on Saturdays might seem like a disadvantage, when else would residents get there? Synchronize a visit with one of this neighborhood's hot new food finds, maybe by brunching beforehand at Glenn's Diner or munching on pizza at Spacca Napoli.

Roscoe Village gets righteously affordable at Sacred Art
For a seriously sweet deal on artwork, the North Side's gem of an art gallery is Sacred Art. Need an unconventional wedding gift or an edgy painting for your living room? Bring $200 to this Roscoe Village haven and you'll leave with a painting, a handmade glass vase and enough money a glass of champagne at Volo down the street. But seriously, Sacred Art contributes to the community feel of this adorable neighborhood with Friday night art openings that that are free, with free "adult" refreshments. Fun!


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