Chicago Alternative Art Spaces Directory P–T)

Produce Model

1007 W. 19th St.,
Chicago, IL 60608

(646) 872 7692

Fri–Sat 12–5 pm

Prospectus Art Gallery

1210 W. 18th St.,
Chicago, IL 60608

(312) 733 6132

Wed–Sun 12–5 pm, Mon & Tues by appointment


Public Access

3306 W. North Ave., Chicago, IL

Sat 12–6 pm or by appointment


2216 W. Chicago Ave.,

Chicago, IL 60622

(773) 661 2578

Thurs–Sat 12–6 pm or by appointment

Roots & Culture

1034 N. Milwaukee Ave.,

Chicago, IL 60642

(773) 580 0102

Thurs–Fri 4–7 pm, Sat 12–6 pm or by appointment

Sidewinder Gallery

4880 N. Clark St.,
Chicago, IL 60640

(773) 961 8022

Weds–Sat 1–7 pm,
Sunday 2–6 pm


2153 W. 21st St.,
Chicago, IL 60608

(773) 645 8803

Sat 12–5 pm or by appointment

Space 900

1042 Wesley Ave.,
Evanston, IL 60202

(773) 895 4484

hours vary with exhibition


2055 W. Cermak Rd.,

Chicago, IL 60608

(845) 553 0053

The Changing World of
Alternative Art Spaces in Chicago


Chicago has had a long history of alternative art spaces. But not much has been written about them in recent years. Patrick Putze wrote a piece about them in 2013, published in “Arts & Culture.” Since then many of the spaces he featured have closed and new ones have emerged. It is time to take a fresh look at this community and how it is doing.

Putze used Lynne Warren’s definition of an alternative space from her 1984 book “Alternative Spaces: A History in Chicago.” She defined them as any “not-for-profit or noncommercial organization originated by and for artists (and assuring them a primary role in policy development and programming) that primarily shows Chicago-area artists, has a fixed location and operates on a continuous basis.” This definition needs a little updating.

“Alternative” today is less of an art political position than an acknowledgement of the limited opportunities offered by the traditional, established galleries. It is still, however, a recognition that most traditional galleries are too bound up in the museum-curator-gallery network to offer much opportunity for the emerging or lesser known artist.

Today, alternative spaces are to be found in many parts of the city, primarily in Andersonville, Belmont Central, East Garfield Park, Heart of Chicago, Humboldt Park, Pilsen, Ukrainian Village, and Winnemac. Many of these locations are in “less affluent” neighborhoods and are considered marginally safe. But the rent is affordable for individuals or small groups who are supporting the space with their own funds. Yet they are often hard to reach for those dependent on public transportation.

Many of these spaces are supported by individuals’ private funds, so their hours are limited because the founders must have “regular” jobs to support the space. The most common times for them to be open are Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons. A few are open on Sundays.

Chicago has a large number of these “standard” alternative spaces, i.e., small galleries supported by one or two artists, usually housed in a storefront or a warehouse space in obscure parts of town. Notable galleries in this category include Boyfriends, Julius Caesar, and New Capital, all located in East Garfield Park, a not-yet-emerging part of town. The area contains a large number of old warehouses and factories and now houses hundreds of artists’ studios, according to Ben Foch who runs Boyfriends and New Capital.

Slow, a storefront gallery in the Heart of Chicago neighborhood just west of Pilsen, is another notable example. Run by Paul Hopkin, the space is well maintained and very well curated. Produce Model, in Pilsen, is another well designed store-front space showing competent work. Oddly, the windows are covered so you cannot see anything from the sidewalk. (And the people who run it have not seen fit to put up a sign; I walked by it twice before finding the space.)

Regards, a gallery in Ukrainian Village, is notable for its highly sophisticated installations. It is also a very well curated space. A more community oriented space is Public Access. It is a multi-use project space located in Humboldt Park. Their website asserts their desire to “generate non-commercial content positioned toward rarified and cult values.” Not surprisingly, this space is more ad hoc in look and feel. As is Triumph, also located in the Heart of Chicago neighborhood. This space considers itself a project space, and it is instituting The Triumph School, a community outreach program , whose website says it “seeks to become a multi-disciplinary residency and an expanded learning environment.“

But not all alternative spaces these days are not-for-profit. Some are clearly commercial, following the standard gallery model but located in obscure parts of the city. A prime example of this kind of space is 65 Grand, run by Bill Gross. He is clearly committed to selling work, but the space is located in Humboldt Park, an “emerging neighborhood” at best. And the gallery is only open on Thursday evenings and Friday and Saturday afternoons.

Then there is Sidewinder on North Clark Street, in the Winnemac neighborhood and two doors away from an infamous towing company. Brett Siegel, the owner, operates a traditional gallery and is gambling on the neighborhood gentrifying in the near future. Its location is what makes it an alternative space.

Nearby, is Lawrence and Clark. The owner, Jason Pickleman, operates this tiny store-front gallery in Sheridan Park to display and update his own private collection. It is only open on Saturday afternoons and functions as a gathering place for people to come and discuss what is going on in the art world.

Martha Mae Art Supplies & Beautiful Things, located in the heart of Andersonville, blends the showing and sale of owner Jean Cate’s art with the sale of high-end art supplies. The shop is named after her beloved cavalier King Charles spaniel who is there most days and adds a certain familial charm to the establishment.

Also in Andersonville is Las Manos, run by Michelle Peterson-Albandoz and Michael McGuire, both practicing artists. The gallery primarily features their work with occasional work by other artists. They will also sometimes host special events.

What makes some galleries “alternative” is their specialization. Pilsen’s Prospectus Art Gallery is a traditional gallery that has been in existence since 1991. It specializes in Mexican and Latin American art and shows work by mature artists. Defibrillator Gallery (spelled DFBRL8R on their website) is devoted exclusively to performance art. It is a not-for-profit 501c3 tax exempt arts organization located in the West Town neighborhood. And Filter Space, also located in West Town, is a space operated by Filter Photo, another not-for-profit 501c3 tax exempt organization, that sponsors exhibitions, workshops, and lectures related to photography.

Not all of today’s alternative spaces operate on a continuous basis. Warren’s definition does not encompass the relatively new phenomenon of the pop-up gallery, the annual show of work by a particular group of artists, or a studio’s one-night “rent party” opening. Dock 6 Collective in the Belmont Central neighborhood, puts on an annual one-day exhibition of their furniture design members’ works, along with artwork by invited individual artists. Attending this event had a comfortable, casual feel and expanded the boundaries of contemporary aesthetics beyond the traditional media of “high art.”

Humboldt Park artist Jason Brammer holds an annual open house at his studio, which he shares with two other artists. It is very much a rent party type affair with music and drinks and a lot of socializing. Maybe within all the party atmosphere, a piece might get sold. Space 900 in Evanston held a pop-up exhibit as a benefit that lasted only a few days. Admittedly these events are hard to track because of their ephemeral nature, but they are becoming an increasingly popular means of showing art, especially for the emerging artist that are closely tied to a particular social group.

 “Project” galleries have emerged as another venue for showing. A few are a variation of publishing’s vanity press, offering exhibition opportunities for artists who have the means to help support the cost of mounting the show. Others solicit proposals from artists for shows rather than maintain a “stable” of gallery artists. Their presence in today’s art market must be acknowledged.

The most notable examples in Chicago are Firecat Projects, Linda Warren Projects, and Devening Projects. Roots & Culture, a 15 year old not-for-profit gallery with 501c3 tax exempt status, is one of the longest lasting alternative galleries in Chicago. It functions like a project gallery. Proposals are submitted for approval by a review panel. But unlike other galleries, accepted artists receive a $500 stipend.

What most of these spaces do not succeed in doing is to reach out to the emerging collector. Why should that be important? After all most of today’s alternative spaces are organized to show the work of artists in a particular social group and to act as a forum for dialogue—not as a sales venue. But artworks cost money to produce and spaces cost money to maintain.

One of the main reasons that alternative spaces close is that the organizers can no longer afford to underwrite them. So cash flow issues play a major role in the survival of these spaces. And developing a buying audience of emerging collectors is one way to maintain cash flow. Yet the sales aspect of the gallery business conflicts with the open dialogue facet of the alternative space. As a result, the cultivation of a buying clientele tends to get ignored.

On the other hand, having a forum for dialogue that is not dictated by financial necessities is critical to the development and evolution of an artist’s aesthetic. A few alternative spaces have gone the route of being formal not-for-profit organizations. There is a rich history of such organizations in Chicago. The 1970s saw the emergence of the not-for-profit co-operative galleries N.A.M.E., Arc, and Artemisia. They formed a very lively art scene for more than a decade in the Hubbard Street area just west of State Street. But the burden of being co-ops (with membership recruiting being a very time consuming activity) exacerbated the taxing bureaucratic duties of boards, grant writing, and organizational administration. Eventually most of these organizations became overwhelmed by these duties and were forced to close.

Alternative art spaces have existed and will continue to exist and evolve because the traditional art gallery model cannot provide adequate facilities to view the work of emerging artists. Nor is the traditional gallery well-equipped to be a forum for dialogue and discussion. The business of being for-profit restricts the resources, and the necessity for sales promotion inhibits open critical discussion.

So, to see emerging art and have open discussions about “what is on the wall,” put on your walking shoes and go visit these out-of-the-way spaces. You will be surprised and stimulated by what you see. And you will realize that Chicago’s art community is not confined to River North, the West Loop or Fulton Market.


Michel Ségard is the Editor-in-Chief of the New Art Examiner.

Chicago Alternative Art Spaces Directory (A–N)



3252 W. North Ave.,
Chicago, IL 60647

(312) 719 4325

Thurs 6–9 pm, Fri & Sat 12–6 pm


3311 W. Carroll St.,
Chicago, IL 60612

Sundays 1–4 pm or by appointment


1463 W. Chicago Ave.,

Chicago, IL 60642

(773) 609 1137

Devening Projects + Editions

3039 W. Carroll Ave.,
Chicago, IL 60612

(312) 420 4720

Saturdays 12–5 pm or by appointment

Filter Space (Filter Photo)

1821 W. Hubbard St. #207,

Chicago, IL 60622

(312) 282 6818

Mon–Sat 11 am–5 pm

Firecat Projects

2124 N. Damen Ave.,

Chicago, IL 60647

(207) 249 9486

Mon–Sat 10 am–4 pm and by appointment

Julius Caesar

3311 W. Carroll Ave.,

Chicago, IL 60612

Sundays 1–4 pm


Lawrence & Clark

4755 N. Clark St.,
Chicago, IL 60640

(773) 459 0586

Saturday 1–5pm and by appointment

Las Manos Gallery

1515 W. Foster Ave.,
Chicago, IL 60653

(773) 728 8910

Wed–Sun 12–5 pm or by appointment

Linda Warren Projects

327 N. Aberdeen St.,
Chicago IL 60607

(312) 432 9500

Tues–Sat 11 am–5 pm or by appointment

Martha Mae Art Supplies &

Beautiful Things

5407 N. Clark St.,
Chicago, IL 60640

(872) 806 0988

Weds–Sun 12–6 pm

New Capital

3114 W. Carroll Ave.,
Chicago, IL 60612

By appointment



Make a MONTHLY DONATION to the New Art Examiner via

or make a ONE-TIME DONATION via PayPal

SUBSCRIBE to the New Art Examiner via PayPal