Logan Square Preservation turns Comfort Station into gallery space

By Matt Watson

Photo courtesy Kyle C. Henderson

In a grassy park, sitting directly across from the Logan Square Monument, is an unassuming building that looks like an abandoned tool shed. Built in 1915, the space was originally a place for weary travelers to escape the harsh Chicago winters while waiting for the train. After sitting vacant for decades, it was finally transformed into an interdisciplinary art gallery.

The Comfort Station gallery, 2579 N. Milwaukee Ave., opened on April 2 with a show featuring art from painter Jordan Martins and live music by the John Rapson Quartet. Martins’ artwork will remain up throughout April, with live bands playing at the gallery’s events on Mondays and Thursdays until April 28.

Jessie Devereaux, curator at the Comfort Station, said plans to feature an artist each month from April until September are in the works. The space will also host music events, acting performances and other forms of art displayed in the gallery. Devereaux said it’s all part of the gallery’s interdisciplinary mission.

“We’re trying to bring in programming that’s as eclectic and conceptual as possible,” Devereaux said. “We want to push the boundaries and have people do projects that are challenging.”

After a successful opening, the Comfort Station’s small crew planned projects throughout the summer with local organizations.

“We’re planning on having openings the first Saturday of every month,” Devereaux said. “We have a film event planned, and we’re going to have a silk screening event weekly. There are a million things just getting under way.”

David Keel, director of the Comfort Station, said the building was built before the current Chicago Transit Authority Blue Line and sat on an old train route. It was a place for commuters to wait for trains to keep out of Chicago’s unpredictable weather. Keel said in the past 30 years, it was used by the Chicago Park District as a shed for

lawn mowers.

Logan Square Preservation, a nonprofit historic organization, rented the Comfort Station from the Chicago Park District and restored the building over the past five years. Keel, who has worked with LSP for approximately four years, urged the organization to use the building to display artwork.

“The original plan was to turn it into a museum,” Keel said. “But we decided it would better serve the community if we turned it into an art gallery.”

The renovations were finally completed in early 2011, and the gallery was ready for presentation. Devereaux said Martins, who had previously displayed his work in his home, was the kind of artist she wanted to showcase.

“He’s an incredibly talented artist who’s had a difficult time getting into the tough gallery scene,” Devereaux said. “I would love for that to be one of our functions, to be a stepping stone where people can come to us with a rather wild proposal. We’re looking for people with conceived bodies of work.”

Martins’ work comprises large collages with six to 10 layers of resin, a clear substance similar to enamel, giving the art a 3-D feel. Emily Torem, a DePaul University student and friend of the gallery operators, said although the gallery isn’t large, the curator did a great job utilizing the space.

“It’s just a really free, casual way of going into this gallery and enjoying some music,” Torem said. “[The curator] has visions for it, but they’re also just kind of running with it and letting it develop on its own.”

The Comfort Station partnered with Summer Sessions on the Square, an outdoor concert series in Logan Square that runs every fourth Saturday of the month from June until September, to combine forces and create a larger event. The gallery also plans to work with the Chicago Underground Library, a collection of Chicago-specific media, to bring an exhibit to its space.

In an effort to diversify its exhibits, Devereaux said the Comfort Station is talking to artists in New York City and Los Angeles.

“That’s sort of part of our mission,” Devereaux said. “We want to be that nomadic stopping point for artists. We’re not a traditional gallery, so we can really push the concepts of shows and push things that are more original.”