Pilsen Roundup: Alternative Exhibition Spaces For Artists

Tamara Dolyniuk

In the heart of one of Chicago’s most vibrant emerging art communities, Pilsen, new opportunities have surfaced for artists that challenge the convention of the traditional gallery. In addition to the abundance of store front pop-up spaces, other local business owners are also promoting the many artists that Pilsen is home to through housing rotating year-round exhibitions in their spaces, creating a non-traditional gallery setting for artists to display their work.

Here are some of the players doing their part in supporting Pilsen’s creative community:

Café Jumping Bean

Café Jumping Bean– Eleazar Delgado has been promoting local artists at Café Jumping Bean since its inception 18 years ago. The art programming is such a serious component of the café’s mission that its website dedicates equal space to its menu as it does to its art exhibits.  Eleazar begins planning the annual exhibition calendar each October, which makes that the best time for artists to contact him to be considered for inclusion in the Café Jumping Bean art community. He has already scheduled exhibits for nine of the twelve months in 2012. Artists can submit their work in person or online for consideration. A number of past exhibits have featured photography and prints from artists living and working in Pilsen, however, the café is open to a wide range of artistic styles. Exhibits are on display for five weeks, allowing the café to keep its atmosphere fresh. In the past, Café Jumping Bean has sold out a number of its shows. Artwork displayed at the café can either be purchased through the artist, whose information is displayed next to the work, online or through the café, though it takes no commission on the sale of art.

Ciao Amore

Ciao Amore– At Ciao Amore, Mario Garcia warmly welcomes discussion of the art on display and the history behind it. The restaurant works in collaboration with Jose Luis Pina Morales, founder of Casa de la Cultura Carlos Cortez Mestizarte, displaying art from his private collection as well as art by his students, which stylistically reflects the work of Mexican painters Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. Some of the restaurant’s waiters are practicing artists as well and use the restaurant walls as a venue for artistic exposure. Exhibitions are put together in conjunction with Pilsen’s Open Studios and are usually on display for a few months before being rotated. Ciao Amore’s art program gives exhibitors the opportunity to display their work in conjunction with Carlos Cortez’s museum-worthy pieces. In order to be considered for inclusion in Ciao Amore’s art schedule, artists should come to the restaurant and speak with Mario. Ciao Amore does not charge artists to display their work and instead considers it part of giving back to the community. The restaurant does not provide pricing or any additional information, as all sales must be made directly through the artist.


Efebina’s Café

Efebina’s Café– The vast open wall space at Efebina’s Café makes it the perfect setting to showcase art. Monica Henao works to promote the café’s artists in a rather formal way, providing them with marketing materials in addition to an opening night reception, which often ends in sold out shows. Artists can email Monica samples of their work for consideration in the café’s programming. Shows are scheduled a few months in advance and are on display at the café for eight weeks. Monica has found that larger work is more difficult to sell and prefers paintings and sculptures versus photography. Sales can be made through the café or the artist directly, whose contact information can be found next to the work. Monica’s passion for art has led her to spearhead a number of initiatives both at the café and within the larger Pilsen community. She is working on a competition to select muralists who will use Efebina’s outdoor space as a medium to create work that reflects social commentary. She is also working with the city alderman on creating mural projects at 16th Street Organization to encourage more people to come to Pilsen and engage in its vibrant culture.


Ghetto Division

Ghetto Division– Record label Ghetto Division, which focuses on creating its own niche in the club music arena, uses its space to promote both up-and-coming musicians and local emerging artists. While there is no formal art program in place at Ghetto Division, a lot of the work on display reflects graffiti and expressionistic traditions. These artistic styles fit the atmosphere of the underground music venue well, both conceptually and aesthetically. Artists interested in exhibiting at Ghetto Division can casually come in to the 18th St. location with samples of their work. The shows rotate every month in conjunction with 2nd Fridays.


Kristoffer’s Café & Bakery

Kristoffer’s Café & Bakery– Carlos and Cristina Chavarria of Kristoffer’s Café & Bakery are interested in enriching the synergy between food and art. They aim to display the work of local aspiring artists who in a way complement their Latin cuisine. Carlos prefers showcasing smaller work that can be easily hung on the café’s walls but is open to a number of different mediums. The couple pays homage to its Mayan heritage by displaying their personal collection of native wood sculptures from the Yucatan Peninsula. The café is flexible on the duration of the art exhibitions it hosts, intending to rotate the work as much as possible. The art program at Kristoffer’s is scheduled at least two months out, and new exhibitions usually fall in conjunction with 2nd Fridays. Artists can approach Carlos with samples of their work in person or via email. Kristoffer’s will facilitate the sale of artwork but will not release any piece until the official closing of the show.


Suggestions for this article were given to us by our friends at Chicago Urban Art Society.