LOGAN SQUARE — The Logan Square Blue Line station is being transformed into an art gallery.
Khloe Karova, the publisher of a photography book centered on Logan Square gentrification, spent nearly $50,000 to buy all the station’s ad space and replace the ads with blown-up photos from the book that capture the neighborhood’s beauty. The exhibit kicks off Monday and ends June 27.
With the photos, depicting Logan Square churches and street vendors to hip-hop events and mom-and-pop shops, Karova hopes to spark appreciation for the neighborhood and inspire residents to preserve its culture.
“I really want to make sure that these everyday histories — people’s stories — aren’t ignored. I want to remind people these are important stories,” Karova said.
Karova published “LGNSQ: The Logan Square Book — Gentrification and Preservation in a Chicago Neighborhood” last year with help from a team of professional photographers.
The book features about 200 photos of the people, places and events that define Logan Square, like the man who drives the San Luis Freeze ice cream truck, the tightrope walkers in Palmer Square Park and the Battle for the Eagle event at the Logan Square Monument.
For the exhibit, Karova is blowing up about 50 photos from the book and installing them in the ad panels along the Logan Square Blue Line station walls. Residents will be able to learn about the story behind each photo from placards and an exhibit guide, which will soon be available for pickup at the Logan Square Public Library.
Karova said she chose the Logan Square Blue Line station for the exhibit because it’s a major community hub that has played “such an important role” in the neighborhood’s identity.
“Many people don’t know that the CTA brought waves of immigrants after the Great Chicago Fire, immigrants looking for affordable housing,” Karova said. “That spot you’re standing on in the subway station — there are generations of immigrants who have come through there.”
Karova bypassed the traditional art gallery route for her exhibit because the train station is accessible to people who otherwise can’t afford to visit one of the city’s Downtown museums, she said. With ridership way down due to the coronavirus pandemic, Karova also hopes the exhibit will inspire people to take the train again.
Karova is a financial adviser who has lived in Logan Square since 1997. She was inspired to publish the photography book — and launch the exhibit — as she watched the area change.
For many years, Logan Square was a predominately working-class Latino neighborhood. But as the neighborhood has gentrified, the Latino population has plummeted, while the white population has grown. Today, many Latino-owned restaurants and shops have been replaced by trendy bars and restaurants catering to millennials.
“I want to capture the changes in the community before full gentrification takes hold,” Karova said in 2019.
Typically, the Logan Square Blue Line station is lined with ads from national brands like Target, but it’s now filled with vibrant photos featuring the faces and places of Logan Square, a reminder the neighborhood has so much more to offer than just acclaimed restaurants, Karova said.
Karova said the CTA was thrilled when she approached them about buying all of the ad space for an art exhibit. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the city agency has struggled to bring in advertisers, she said.
The deal cost Karova about $48,000. While that may seem like a lot to some, she said it’s a “very, very small investment” if it leads to the preservation of neighborhood institutions that are struggling under the weight of gentrification, like churches and small businesses.
“I’m doing this as a public service for all of these institutions and nonprofits. I think it’s definitely a good use of my money,” she said.
A public grand opening party is planned for 11 a.m.-2 p.m. June 5 with guided tours, a book raffle and tacos and kids meals from L’ Patron’s food truck. Those interested in attending are encouraged to RSVP online.
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