What began as a habitual and firmly-established capacity to throw big parties, three locals decided to apply their party-throwing abilities to community-building with an event that benefited both local artists and their community.
With an arsenal of artist friends, Grace Pisula, Melissa Schlesinger and Kyle Small conceived Garden Gallery, a pop-up exhibition held under the California Blue Line Stop. Now in its third year, the event was Aug. 17 and showcased local performing and visual artists in a celebration of Logan Square and the larger Northwest arts community.
The annual event aims to provide a network of opportunities between artists, local businesses and citizens. Everyone benefits: artists can gain exposure and a platform to sell their work and citizens are able to enjoy the art for free. And because Pisula works for a film production company, the event garners content for artists to use, as well as a chance to network with other local artists.
Photos: Tom Vlodek
Pisula said she enjoys Garden Gallery more than the “ragers” they used to throw—the event feels more purposeful, creating an avenue for engagement.
“There’s more at stake,” Pisula said. “It feels better to offer an experience for the community.”
This Garden Gallery featured visual artists like Hyunju Park and Nina Nightingale, a silhouette portrait artist, as well as live music, like local artist Abud: A Band and FURY. Food was provided by Empanada Truck and the Coffee Roasters cart.
The event is in conjunction with a web series directed by Pisula, Sweat Local, an in-the-works video series that aims to encourage citizens to be active community members through access to inclusive and hyperlocal content and exposure to arts and culture events.
The web series involves individuals riding their bikes throughout the city, Pisula said, highlighting what makes Chicago neighborhoods unique, and interacting with local businesses who support their communities.
“There is not a lot of web content that’s inherently good and celebrates Chicago neighborhoods and our city,” Pisula said. “We’re creating something to counteract that narrative to celebrate these neighborhoods.”
Pisula created Sweat Local after volunteering with Northwest Arts Connection, Garden Gallery’s event sponsor. The non-profit volunteer group hosts art-oriented events throughout the Northwest side in efforts to engage the community and support local creatives.
“Art on the Northwest Side often gets overlooked,” Wendy Jo Harmston, Board Member of the Northwest Arts Connection. “We want people to know, appreciate and support art on the Northwest Side.”
It’s difficult to make urban events feel homey without feeling contrived. Garden Gallery succeeded in creating a space for new artists to grow and older artists to thrive, without the pretension.
“Events like these are such good exposure,” Andrea Clofalo, Garden Gallery newcomer and visual artist said. “I don’t get out there much, so small pop-up shows like these are a good way to feel comfortable sharing my art.”
Featured photo: Tom Vlodek