Pop-Up Art invades Chicago

By KatherineGamby

Storefronts in Chicago’s Loop will be dressed up by a new initiative that is designed to help artists and property owners during the economic downturn.

Pop-Up Art Loop is a recent project of the Chicago Loop Alliance Foundation in which storefronts in the Loop are used, under contract, as galleries by artists to exhibit their artwork for a fixed amount of time.  Some exhibit spaces include the Wabash Gallery, 220 S. Wabash Ave., and the Chicago Photography Collective, 29 E. Madison Ave., which are now on displaying work.

“The idea is to have a win/win situation both for property owners and for artists,” said Laura Jones, associate director of the Chicago Loop Alliance Foundation.

The idea of the initiative, which is not for profit, grew from a luncheon between the chairman of the Board of the Chicago Loop Alliance Foundation and several individuals who are now members of the Chicago Photography Collective. Pop-Up Art Loop is meant to occupy vacant storefronts in order to bring potential renters and encourage them to stay well after the artists have come and gone.

“What we hope to do is give this artist a space for 30 days or so and then make him move on,” Jones said.

After the artists leave a location, they move to another one that the Chicago Loop Alliance Foundation has partnered with. Jones said that though it is a solid concept, there is still room for improvement.

“Right now this is a pilot project; we’ve only started with a couple of locations to see how the whole thing would work,” Jones said. “Later on, we’ll be enlarging the project, but not before we get the kinks worked out.”

One improvement that Paul Natkin, a photographer and member of the Chicago Photography Collective, said can be made is giving students the same opportunities as professionals.

“There’s another level to it because there might be people who are really great that are students and where do they show their work?” Natkin said.

The Chicago Photography Collective is a group of Chicago professional photographers who want to create a sense of unity within their community.  They are currently occupying a storefront on the corner of Madison Street and Wabash Avenue, where Natkin said he hopes to hold events and possibly make connections with students.

“There is a lot that students can learn from hanging out with us … I’ve got more than 40 years of experience and I’m more than happy to share it with anybody at any given time,” Natkin said.

He said that all of the photographers in the organization have about 1,000 years of professional experience combined to share with students, which they are eager to do. Natkin said that although it is important to foster mentorship with students, forming a bond with all photographers is the goal of the Chicago Photography Collective.

“We want to make this into a community and it’s not just professional, it’s students too,” Natkin said.

Jon Randolph, a photographer and member of the Chicago Photography Collective, said student or not, everyone should witness good artwork and will when they visit these art galleries offered through the Pop-Up Art Loop.

“I think it always benefits someone to look at good work … there’s got to be somebody’s cup of tea somewhere on these walls,” Randolph said.

For more information on the initiative’s mission, locations of some Pop-Up Art Loop galleries, upcoming exhibitions as well as hours of business for the galleries, visit PopUpArtLoop.com.