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Wicker Park, Bucktown, West Town

45 Years And Going Strong, Women-Owned Art Gallery Debuts New Digs In West Town

A rent increase forced ARC Gallery out of Bucktown but the new West Town space is in good company with many other galleries along Chicago Avenue.

Cheri Reif Naselli, president of the ARC Gallery (left), with longtime gallery member Iris Goldstein.
Alisa Hauser/Block Club Chicago
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WEST TOWN — An art gallery cooperative run by women artists that was founded in the height of the women’s movement 45 years ago will celebrate its new home with an exhibit this weekend.

“WOMEN STRONG: New Space, New Work,” ARC Gallery’s first member exhibition in its new gallery, 1463 W. Chicago Ave., debuts on Friday night with a free opening reception from 6-9 p.m.

Featuring paintings, drawings and sculptures by 35 women artists who are former, current and affiliated members of the co-op, the exhibit will close on September 29.

Increasing rent at the gallery’s most recent location at 2156 N. Damen Ave. in Bucktown caused the members of the co-op to find a new space, according to ARC Gallery’s president Cheri Reif Naselli.

The artists were in Bucktown for six years and rent would have gone up by 25 percent had they stayed. Over the past 45 years, they’ve operated out of seven different locations and the new West Town gallery will be its eighth gallery space, Reif Naselli said.

Credit: Provided
A flier from an early group show in 1974.

“If you’re looking to see innovative, emerging artists, West Town is becoming the place to be, and we hope that our new location will make us even more visible to art enthusiasts,” Reif Naselli said.

In recent months, renowned art dealer Rhona Hoffman relocated her gallery from the West Loop to Chicago Avenue. West Town’s Chicago Avenue corridor is also home to other galleries such as Chicago Truborn,  Document, Western Exhibitions and Volume.

Two of ARC Gallery’s 17 founding members from 1973 — Gerda Meyer Bernstein and Civia Rosenberg — will debut new pieces in this weekend’s show, according to member Iris Goldstein, who joined the co-op in 1990.

Credit: Alisa Hauser/Block Club Chicago
ARC Gallery’s new space at 1463 W. Chicago Ave.

The new, 2,970-square-foot gallery includes three to four exhibition spaces, as well as a “raw” basement space which artists will be able to completely transform as part of their installations, an office space and an area dedicated to showing videos and multimedia work.

ARC Gallery was founded in 1973 with “the goal of offering a professional exhibition space for women artists who were not represented equally in commercial galleries, museum and other art venues,” the gallery said.

One of the few remaining women’s cooperative galleries in the country, the gallery is run by 15 member artists, as well as about 10 affiliate members, who do everything from selecting the pieces that will be shown to hanging the artwork, painting the walls, doing the marketing, fundraising and more. The gallery puts on four group shows per year, two of which are juried, as well as rents out space to other artists who want to exhibit their work.

According to a news release, the gallery supports all emerging or marginalized artists, of whatever gender, who struggle to find professional exhibition space.  

“We know what struggles women had in the past in trying to break into the male-dominated art world, and today, we hope to support other artists who deserve to have their voices heard,” Reif Naselli said in a statement. 

For more info, visit the ARC Gallery’s website.