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Dec. 12 2009 - 4:04 pm | 185 views | 2 recommendations | 6 comments

Vacant storefronts make great alternative galleries

photo courtesy of Rae Ann Cecrle

Edgewater Artists in Motion, photo courtesy of Rae Ann Cecrle

Both the Reader and TimeOut Chicago have written about the Pop-Up Art Loop Program, where artists display their work in vacant storefronts downtown:

The program is as much about helping landlords rent their property as offering artists places to display their work for free in high-traffic areas. Says Tabing, “This is a temporary response to the retail environment because what we’re advocating is the rental of these spaces.”

via Chicago Reader

Tabing tells us Pop-Up Art Loop came together in less than four months. “The initiative started with our chairman, Lou Raizin, [president of] Broadway in Chicago,” Tabing says. “He had read about these initiatives in other cities, and the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs was looking at this program in other neighborhoods,” so the agency’s director of cultural planning, Julie Burros, offered the CLA advice.

via TimeOut Chicago

This is all fine and good,  but credit should be given where it is due. Both publications fail to mention Edgewater’s Artists in Motion, an initiative that has been doing the very same exact thing for more than 8 months now. Edgewater Artists in Motion is a joint initiative involving the Edgewater Chamber of Commerce, the Edgewater Community Council, and the Edgewater Development Corporation.   Rae Ann Cecrle is the brains behind the initiative,  and started the program last year in an effort to make the “district more vibrant”, saying  ”Edgewater has been hit really bad with the recession”. Cecrle says she just came up with the idea after looking at all the vacant storefronts and reading about gallery closings. Currently, 20 artists are displaying their works in approximately 20 vacant storefronts in Edgewater, for a period of 3 months each.

Displaying the artwork in vacant storefronts is no easy task as each storefront needs to be cleaned and  ”we have to be careful of the light and moisture levels to protect the art” says Cecrle, and that does require some investment. Cecrle explained that some artists get co-sponsors to cover the costs.  The new building on Granville and Broadway showcases 8 different artists, and Cecrle says “the owner is really happy” with how the storefronts look.

The Edgewater Chamber is throwing a “Holidays Around the World Celebration” today with an art festival showcasing 25 different artists.  Look for a tree lighting ceremony and a holiday concert. More information can be found on their website here.

Rae Ann Cercle sits on the  Board of the Edgewater Chamber of Commerce, The Edgewater Development Corp, The Edgewater Community Council, and is Chairman of the SSA26 in Edgewater.


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  1. collapse expand

    Fruzsina,

    They always say that artists do well in a recession, not that they make more money necessarily but that creativity somehow blooms under duress. This program is a great example of how art finds the light of day during a recessions. Thanks for writing about it. It’s somewhat like the WPA programs that paid artists during The Great Depression. Is there any confusion about these spaces, though? That they are art galleries instead of vacant storefronts? Can people walk into the spaces to look at the work, or do they see it through the storefront window?

    • collapse expand

      Thanks for commenting, Nick! You make an interesting point. Perhaps during recessions, artists are underemployed and have more time to be creative, and/or they are able to tap into the collective misery of the populace?

      As far as going inside the vacant storefronts, I don’t believe that is allowed. The art is displayed by the window and you have to view the art through the glass. Not exactly ideal for viewing art, but it’s better than nothing!

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  2. collapse expand

    Great post! As they say,necessity is the mother of all invention. Why not use vacant property for something interesting rather than just blank glass. This is an example of several organizations getting it right. Thanks for highlighting Edgewater Artists in Motion. Good call.

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    When I am not gracing the front page of google news, I'm writing on one of my other blogs or doing research.

    I was born in Budapest, and escaped the evils of communism at a young age. When I was four, I jumped a fence, fought a guard, disarmed fifteen land mines, and swam across the Atlantic to New York City. Basically.

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