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A Day of Art: Tackling the Blue Line

Yolanda Green

Unfortunately, not every day is second Friday.

Kavi Gupta Gallery

Some art fans might find it difficult, as I sometimes do, to catch those awesome exhibition receptions and openings. If you miss those receptions and you really want to see something, then you’ll have to plan a trip when you have time to go to that one gallery – with that one exhibit that you missed the reception for. Though the galleries are still great to see, the visit may feel very “after-the-fact.” Plus, you just might be able to squeeze in some time between work and dinner to visit that venue. There’s just something about those Fridays that you miss – like the excitement of devoting a whole night to seeing as much art as you can.

Well even though it’s not reception night and everyone might not be out on the Chicago streets viewing art at the same time you are – you can still go and have a second Friday, or Thursday, or Tuesday, or Saturday – which ever day you set aside in order to see as much art as possible. In fact, a very good portion of the galleries sit right on the path of the ‘L,’ which makes for easy access and a ready-made, straight-shot tour of the galleries in Chicago. I will be taking these tours and showing you some of the gems along the ‘L’ tracks. Then, all you’ll need to do to enjoy a nice day of quality art is grab a friend, hop on a train, and let it take you to gallery after gallery – some of which are not widely known.

Kedzie-Homan

First we’ll take the Blue Line. The Blue Line passes through a large amount of galleries – so for one day, we’ll just focus on the ones not located in the heart of downtown. If you’ve visited the River North galleries quite a lot – this is the trip for you. After all, there are more galleries west of the Chicago stop!

UIC-Halsted Stop: 10am – 1pm

I’d give myself 3 hours to view all of the galleries around that area leisurely, and maybe get a bite to eat. The ones I’ve listed here aren’t comprehensive, however the galleries are located pretty close to each other so you’ll be able to see the ones I missed easily.
We start off with some of the West Loop district.

Firstly, 835 is the address you’ll need to remember when you arrive on Halsted. Only about a 7-10 minute walk from the Halsted stop, the building on Washington contains three, pretty sizable contemporary galleries. Seriously, there’s nothing better than having a one-stop-shop for art when you’re trying to see as much as you can in a day. On the lower level, there’s the Thomas McCormick and Carrie Secrist Gallery. Both are similar in interior looks –with high ceilings and classic white walls.

McCormick Gallery

For me, the great thing about these galleries being right next to each other is noticing how tempting it is to draw parallels between the works within each. This is probably because they are similar in atmosphere and looks. So when you walk out of one gallery and into another, you’re already connecting the themes and images in your head set by the previous venue.

Upstairs is the Kavi Gupta Gallery. The space, which takes up the whole floor, hosts some eye-catching, provocative, and very unique art work. During my visit, the artist exhibited was Curtis Mann and the bright white walls displayed strategically bleached photographs – all of which were breathtaking. There was also a private viewing room with more work from represented artists. When I was there, an inspiring video about Theaster Gates’ shoe shining project played on a small TV set. There’s just simply a lot to see in this gallery. I spent a lot of time there.

The best thing about it? There’s more! Right next to that building is the Tony Wight Gallery, Western Exhibitions – which usually host amazing installations, Rhona Hoffman Gallery down Randolph Street and others. A good walk between Washington and Randolf will give you plenty too look at.

Kedzie-Holman Stop 1:30pm – 2:30pm

Murphy Hill Gallery

It might take you about 15-20 minutes on the Blue Line to get to Murphy Hill Gallery from UIC, including walking.

It might seem counterproductive to get off at a stop just to see one gallery, especially when you’re trying to see the most you can. However, the Murphy Hill Gallery is absolutely worth it. I spent about an hour or more viewing this one gallery – and the interesting thing is that it is very much hidden. No, the area surrounding the gallery isn’t like Oak Park or the West Loop. The venue itself is located in the historic Sears & Roebuck building, on the 3rd floor. When you get to the floor, you’re still not completely sure you’re in the right place.

However once you enter the door of the gallery, it’s almost overwhelming. The gallery takes up a whole floor – and it seems to stretch on forever. It’s like a bottomless pit of art and it just keeps going and going and going. The art itself is “surrealism – fantastic realism – visionary,” extremely diverse, and exhibits all kinds of flavors from African American, Japanese, historical, tribal, urban, mainstream and contemporary. Many of the artists hosted there are local and I found almost every piece absolutely engaging.

Sculptures, paintings, installations, graffiti art, drawings, and photography – you’ll see it all. You’d think the place would be packed from floor to ceiling, but no, it’s very spacious, with room to spare. You might not be able to even see everything there, but it’s only a 5 minute walk from the ‘L’ stop so a return trip is definitely doable.

Oak Park

Austin Stop 2:45pm- 5pm

This is 10-15 minute ride on the Blue Line. Here is where you could spend a good portion of the afternoon viewing the art galleries and stores. Also, some of these galleries require an appointment to view so if there is one that you’re particularly interested in, I would call ahead. Otherwise, many of them are open during mid-day hours. View a comprehensive list at the Oak Park Arts District Website.

I think going down Harrison to take a tour of the Oak Park Arts District is a good relaxing end to your day full of gallery viewing. You’ll encounter many small, homey galleries. Most of them, in regards the modest space, retro architecture of the buildings, and interior atmosphere, just exuded what can only be described as ‘cuteness.’ Yes, generally, it was a quaint, enjoyable, and welcoming street full of cuteness.

For the most part, galleries are right next to each other, and many of them serve as studios too. For instance, Papillon Design, recently opened, hosts the work of Sharon Jane Ott – an artist who has created murals for many locations in Chicago. The space is also used to teach classes and some of the student’s work is displayed on the walls as well.

Not only do you get to view a few galleries, but you can wind down by browsing through some of the artsy stores or take a break at one of the cafes or restaurants.

And if you haven’t had your fill of art, the downtown portion of the Blue Line has much more in store. But that could always be saved for a new day.