A Tour of Pilsen Open Studios

October brings with it a spark of creative energy especially felt with the events focused on the inspiring work of city artists, thanks to the efforts of Chicago Artists Month. As part of the six-week event that displays the “City as Studio,” this weekend’s Pilsen Open Studios showcased more than 30 locations along the 18th Street corridor and surrounding streets, featuring a vast array of unique artistry.

The two-day self-guided art walk allowed a closer look inside the studios, creative hubs, and even personal spaces, of some of the neighborhood’s artists. It also provided an opportunity for those unfamiliar with the area to learn about its culturally rich history and not just its current hip factor based on trendy new hotspots.

The independently produced art walk was born in 2003. Montserrat Alsina and Robert Ferreyra of Colibri Studio gathered a small team of mostly Latino Pilsen artists, and ever since it has evolved to include dozens. They focus the weekend toward highlighting the neighborhood’s studios, with a limited number of cultural spaces and cafes, allowing a glimpse into where and how community art is made. Most of the artists participating in POS either work or live in the neighborhood or have a historical connection to its roots.

In its 13th edition, Pilsen Open Studios set out to prove its artistic relevance in such a culturally diverse city. As we walked around the neighborhood, it was clear to see the abundance of talent this little gem of a neighborhood has always had to offer.

The Pilsen Art House

As a first time participant in Pilsen Open Studios, Lorie Guevara Ranker felt honored and excited to be part of the festivities. She is co-owner of The Pilsen Art House, number 12 on the POS map, and located at 1756 W. 19th Street next to Harrison Park. Her house gallery featured paintings, glasswork and mixed media as well as live performances by local musicians.

CV: Why should people visit Pilsen, and what should they do to not make the community feel like a zoo? (Ha!)

Pilsen is the pulse of the art community in the entire city. Visitors should appreciate the music, art and food here all the time. Try the local spots, not just the new coffee houses.

CV: For you, what are the differences between this area of Pilsen and another?

I think where I’m located it feels more family-oriented. Maybe it’s because I see more kids due to the park next door. I’m happy that my place is a house gallery. It’s different and feels less sterile; it feels less like a box of galleries.

Pilsen Art House Lorie Guevara Ranker

Hoofprint Workshop

On the far west side of Pilsen and marked number 6 on the POS map is Hoofprint Workshop located at 2433 S. Oakley Avenue. The printmaking studio and gallery is owned by print-partners Liz Born and Gabe Hoare who founded the shop in 2012 in a re-purposed funeral parlor.

For Pilsen Open Studios, Hoofprint created The Wood Cut Challenge which required artists to use gouges (a chisel with a concave blade) to draw (cut, rather) into a 40” x 60” piece of birch plywood. These were then inked up and transferred to canvas which were put on display. The technique, which was invented in China, is called “Relief” and would become a pivotal part of grassroots labor movements across the globe.

The large-scale woodcuts presented over the weekend included work by artists like Hector Duarte, Gabriel Villa, Antonio Martinez and Jackie Kazarian.

Hoofprint seeks to produce print-based work as a collaboration between the artist and a team of skilled printers. They also specialize in lithography, Intaglio processes, and they work with emerging artists and those looking to fine-tune their skills. “We also offer private workshops for those seeking to learn or improve on their design,” explained Born.

Hoofprint Workship Sandra Trevino

Sip & Splash

Near Blue Island Avenue is Sip & Splash, located at 1324 W. 18th Street and number 28 on the POS map. Sip & Splash offers adult art classes that are led by professional artists like Kira Padilla Aguirre who is member of the all-female arts collective, Mujeres Mutantes. And the classes are BYOB!

Over the weekend the studio/gallery featured the work of Alejandra Viaduc and Padilla Aguirre, as well as mosaics, sculptures, paintings and hand-made accessories by assorted local artists. “We’ve been really busy the whole weekend and feel so happy to be a part of this,” Aguirre said. Their shop activities included a mask and skull-making workshop, perfect for the upcoming Day of the Dead celebrations.

Sip & Splash Sandra Trevino

Arte Con Madre

On the west side of Blue Island Avenue and next door to Jumping Bean Cafe on Bishop Street was Arte Con Madre, a multimedia installation curated by Pachanka Music Culture, number 23 on the POS map.

The outdoor pop-up gallery included murals, paintings, 3D mannequins, photography and interactive art by Victor Montañez, Peter Rodriguez and Jaime Garza. These were accompanied by live music presentations from Emiliano Rojas, Sammie Torres, Laura Cambron, Pete Maestro Vale, Armando Perez and DJ Cedeño. Plus, there was a tasty display of edible creations provided by Yvolina’s Tamales.

Arte Con Madre Sandra Trevino

Pilsen shined bright this weekend as the vibrant heart of its artistic community displayed their uniquely handcrafted works of art during the 13th annual Pilsen Open Studios art walk. Whether demonstrating new paintings by apprentice artists or full-on exhibits by local legends, this year’s Pilsen Open Studios provided an awe-inspiring manifestation of festivities geared toward the appreciation of art and not just its consumption.

Written by Sandra Trevino
Photos by Sandra Trevino

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