A Guide to the Milwaukee Avenue Arts District

Outlier artists and gallerists are flocking to Milwaukee Avenue, transforming the arterial street into Chicago’s most cutting-edge gallery district.

Clockwise from left: Untitled by Eddie Harris, Prairie Olla by Alan Strathmann and Renee Prisble, and A Realization of Truth by Sierra Faye  

ELASTIC ARTS FOUNDATION
[1] On any given night at this multimedia art co-op, you might see “hip-hop kids hanging out with saxophone players,” says curator Andrea Jablonski. Weekly jam sessions include art, spoken word, theatre, and music. Up next: An annual benefit bash featuring an auction of works by EAF artists. Oct. 19. 2830 N. Milwaukee Ave., elasticarts.org

HAIRPINARTS CENTER
[2] What in the 1930s was the headquarters of a hairpin company is now a green-certified art space and harbor for neighborhood sculptors and video artists in search of a sprawling, two-story space. Up next: Ephemeral Artifacts, a sculpture exhibition by Alan Strathmann and Renee Prisble (above, top right). Opening Oct. 7. 2800 N. Milwaukee Ave., hairpinartscenter.org

Small Milwaukee Avenue map
Click the image to view the full map.

COMFORT STATION
[3] Neighborhood lore claims this 19th-century tram stop was haunted. But the recently restored structure now hosts a rotation of virtuoso musicians and visual artists, not ghosts. Up next: Kate McQuillen’s drawings made from ignited matches alongside prints by Brad Rohloff (right); Wrekmeister Harmonies also performs. Opening Oct. 5. 2579 N. Milwaukee Ave., comfortstationlogansquare.org

GALERIE F
[4] By commissioning a new mural along Milwaukee Avenue for its first anniversary, the silk-screen storefront aims to build a street art scene to rival that of São Paulo. “The tools are the same,” says cofounder Billy Craven, but there is a regional flavor specific to Chicago. Up next: A release party for Matthew Hoffman’s book You Are Beautiful. Oct. 25. 2381 N. Milwaukee Ave., galerief.com

ART INTHESE TIMES
[5] If the Midwest is fertile ground for art and activism, then Art in These Times magazine is its farmer. “There is a strong connection between the arts and social justice,” says Miles Kampf-Lassin, the community editor. Up next: Chicago Torture Justice Memorials, a show that targets police brutality. Through December. 2040 N. Milwaukee Ave., artinthesetimes.wordpress.com

DAMEN EL STOP
[6] If you haven’t already landed at Chicago’s most innovative alfresco gallery, take a peek inside this Blue Line stop. Up next: Collage artist Stephen Eichhorn’s floral explosions. Through December. Damen and North Avenues

‘Untitled (Smoke)’ by Brad Rohloff
Untitled (Smoke) by Brad Rohloff

HEAVEN GALLERY
[7] This neighborhood stalwart embodies the DIY spirit that once permeated this block, which is now littered with retail chains. But curator Alma Wieser says the changes don’t sway her. “We create the shows we want to see”—like Circa 1970, an exhibition that featured creative remakes of the decade’s greatest hits. Up next: Night Without Sleep, a three-artist show by Jessica Bardsley, Gwynne Johnson, and Ashley Thomas. Opens Oct. 18. 1550 N. Milwaukee Ave., heavengallery.com

LVL3
[8] This Wicker Park third-floor walkup harks back to the days when the area was an artists’ enclave. But that doesn’t mean its founder, School of the Art Institute graduate Vincent Uribe, expects anything less than professional. Uribe says he generally sticks to “experimental minimalist,” tapping artists who have a way with everyday objects like hammers and wood. Up next: A group show with work by Evan Robart, Sabina Ott, and Austin Lee. Opening Oct. 12. 1542 N. Milwaukee Ave., lvl3gallery.com

EYEPORIUM GALLERY
[9] If the store Eyewant Eyewear seems particularly funky, that’s because it doubles as a gallery. Carron Little, the director, says she likes to show “things you wouldn’t normally see in a white-box space,” such as glass sculptures of human organs next to hand-crafted eyeglasses. Her experiment is so successful that top collectors buy both art and glasses. Up next: Sharon Bladholm’s Cadaver Collection. Opening Oct. 18. 1431 N. Milwaukee Ave., eyeporiumgallery.com

INTUIT: THE CENTER FOR INTUITIVE AND OUTSIDER ART
[10] “Chicago has a very significant relevance in promoting self-taught art,” says executive director Joel Mangers, who has helped the museum become a hub for outsider artists. One example? The repurposed, reinstalled front room of writer Henry Darger, a famous recluse. Up next: South Side artist Eddie Harris’s It Takes a Hard Heart: The Life and Work of Eddie Harris (top image, left). Through Dec. 28. 756 N. Milwaukee Ave., art.org

DEFIBRILLATOR
[11] One of few performance art spaces in the city, Defibrillator (also known as dfbrL8r) is stocked with talent, thanks to founder Joseph Ravens’s cutting-edge vision of “intense but beauti-ful” body art; think stage piercings and dark, mind-twisting performances à la Marina Abramović. Up next: A performance by Suka Off, a Polish duo known for body-modifying work such as fetish- and masturbation-themed photography and video art. October 18 at 8 p.m. 1136 N. Milwaukee Ave., dfbrl8r.org

WOMAN MADE GALLERY
[12] “We have never said, ‘Are you really a woman? Prove it,’ ” says Beate Minkovski, the director of this 21-year-old gallery, a pillar of the city’s feminist art scene. “We are welcoming to artists of all genders.” But the gallery still mostly shows art by women. Up next: The Photographic Self, a group show featuring experimental self-portraits by Sierra Faye (image at top, bottom right) and others. Through Oct. 24. 685 N. Milwaukee Ave.,womanmade.org
 

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