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A Hall Worth Wandering Down

The old factory buildings of the Ravenswood art corridor have become prime gallery and studio spaces.
Thursday Jan 01, 2009.     By Nola Akiwowo
Centerstage Chicago Nightlife City Guide Arts

Windows showcase loads of artifacts at the museum-meets-store in Ravenswood
photo: Nola Akiwowo
Ravenswood is not just the name for a wonderfully waggish part of town in which to live. Its residents' vibrant zest for expression has turned the neighborhood's main stretch into a veritable platter of animated artistry. Rows of refurbished old factory buildings, in the area from Irving Park to Foster, are home to web design services, audio-visual providers and numerous other small businesses. More importantly, the last 30 years have seen these cavernous spaces flip into prime art gallery and studio spaces, tickling the innovative side of many Northwest Chicago residents who call the Ravenswood art corridor home.

Architectural Artifacts
Stuart Grannen has a penchant for shiny objects of great value, and this obsession has taken shape in the form of Architectural Artifacts, a museum and a store. Many of the statues, furniture pieces and fixtures at the 80,000-square-foot space hail from all corners of the world, like the rows of $1,800 to $6,800 Argentinean and European wall sconces from the turn of the 20th-century. Or, how about picking up a hypnotic, wooden Bolivian Primitive Santo statue—if you happen to have $695. But fans of homegrown relics will be happy to know that plenty of Grannen's pieces were acquired locally; nothing says "Cubs fan" like a $2,200 cast iron turn style from Wrigley Field.

Studio Rose
Public space artist Ginny Sykes (whose work includes a piece for the Cool Globes Project on the Field Museum Campus) retreats to Studio Rose when she feels like creating something smaller than, say, her average mural to display over the Chicago River. An amorphous painting, which is under perpetual construction and was initially created for 2007's Art Walk Ravenswood, covers the walls of the studio and gallery. It is within these broad strokes of translucent paint that she creates her home-friendly abstract paintings of unbridled feminine prowess. While Sykes spends most of her time in her studio creating these pieces, she opens up her space as a performance spot or gallery for other artists three to four times a year.

Lillstreet Art Center
Trying to break into the art scene? The Ravenswood Art Corridor has a simple solution for aspiring and experienced artists alike: The Lillstreet Art Center, which offers gallery and studio space, as well as various creative classes. Members and students of the center work toward fostering and stimulating artistic endeavors in a noncompetitive workspace. Classes run the gamut from chain mailing to bouquet design to glass workshops. Annoyed with the faint scent of Turpenoid in your house? Some membership benefits allow artists 24-7 access to studios, and locker spaces are available for on-site storage. Best yet, there's an on-premise cafe, First Slice, which slings out amazing pies while helping to feed the less fortunate through its meal subscription program.

The Enterprising Kitchen
The non-profit organization known as The Enterprising Kitchen crafts bath and beauty products, like lavender-scented soy candles and bath tea soaks made with tea tree oil to help you unwind after a hard day. Not only will your body benefit from these organic treats, but your chi will also prosper due to the fact the store directly benefits lower-income women trying to change their lives. The Enterprising Kitchen offers a six- to 12-month workforce preparation program to help the women understand their potential by taking part in many of the company's day-to-day functions, ranging from soap making to customer service.


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