Though scarcely visible at street level, North Avenue's new Around the Coyote Gallery is a must-see: It could soon be leader of the Wicker Park pack. By showing the work of eminent and emerging artists of internationally diverse backgrounds, at the heart of the neighborhood whose local scene it variously supports, Around the Coyote Gallery may lever the Wicker Park arts community into conversation with the global art world.
Nudged tightly between the Asrai Garden floral shop and Casa del Tobacco, the gallery is all too easily overlooked by passers-by. Those who seek it out, though, are in for a treat: professional artwork one can feel especially good about patronizing. Through the sale of works and rental of its 2400 sq. ft. space, the not-for-profit gallery raises funds for Around the Coyote's festival and year-round programs. The latter offer art education to underserved youth in the community and instruction and support for local, practicing artists.
However, the gallery and its namesake festival are not synonymous. The two unite but twice per year, when the gallery hosts the Curators' Choice shows, featuring the curatorial picks of the seasonal, local art fairs. The rest of the time it's open season for artwork from across the nation and beyond. Anyone may propose and curate a show, and all media are eligible. Approval by a Board of Directors, though, checks the spirited variation with a preference for progressive, confrontational pieces by rising stars. (Artists' proofs of establishment thus far have ranged from the B.F.A. to the M.F.A. to the Whitney Biennial.) Dance, performance art and music liven openings and mid-show events, and edgy, contemporary works deck the walls and, sometimes, the floor.
A word of warning: Visitors may find themselves as tempted by the gallery's expansive view of the street as by its pieces. Huge windows flood the space with natural light, and the bustle below plays soundtrack to the art-going experience. Crusty radiators and panes of glass are all that separate the prestigious art from the milieu…a dramatization that shouldn't be lost on anyone. (Amber Staab)