The Hairpin Arts Center (2810 N. Milwaukee Ave.) looks like a gallery space, but it aspires to so much more than that. Located on the second floor of the historic Morris B. Sachs building (better known as “that mini flat iron building” at the corners of Kimball, Milwaukee and Diversey Avenues), its huge windows look out over North Logan Square and South Avondale. The neighborhood is part of the viewing experience and the center’s mission is to “empower, engage and transform our community through great art.”
Hairpin is the brainchild of the Logan Square Chamber of Arts, an organization that aims to bring together artists and connect them to their neighbors. The space is rented out on a sliding scale basis to groups and individuals who want to show art as well as community organizations looking for a place to meet.
Gretchen Henninger is the executive director of the Hairpin Art Center and the president of the Logan Square Chamber of Arts. For Henninger, it is important that the space is an “art center” not just an “art gallery” because it creates space for more than just the kind of art you hang on a wall and admire.
“My sister was an opera singer who had an opera company here in Logan Square, so that’s how I got involved initially,” Henninger said. “It was very important to me that we could include as many different types of art as possible like music, dance and visual arts.”
Technology has provided us unprecedented access to media and entertainment but that often comes at the cost of real human interaction. Henninger hopes the HAC will pull people out of their homes and out of their comfort zones through events, art programming and artist residencies. Most recently, the center held an open house Aug. 16 and showcased local talent, like Ana Munteanu, who performed that evening.
“You can’t experience something with someone else if you’re on your cell phone or on your computer,” Henninger said. “I want people to feel like this is a place where they can come and be with other people and see something beautiful or something disturbing that has them think or just be able to sit back and have a good conversation with somebody.”
Part of this focus on building community is providing a platform for voices who are often silenced. The board of directors of the Hairpin Art Center has made a concerted effort to reach out to artists from a variety of backgrounds, some of which tend to be underrepresented in the gallery world. This past winter, the art center hosted a monthlong exhibit called ‘100 Years of Chicago Police Violence’ which featured predominantly black artists.
“It brought me to tears many times,” Henninger said. “I learned something by being at that exhibit and I met some wonderful people who are still in my space.”
The Hairpin Arts Center is looking for volunteers and board members. To get involved, contact them at [email protected] or go to hairpinartcenter.org.
Featured photo: Ana Munteanu performs at Hairpin Art Center Aug. 16. Photo: Sarah Hurd