(Left to Right) Henok Misgina, owner of Uptown Gallery, Kyle Lilly, MIXTAPE show curator and Dee Lionezz, arist Credit: Francesca Mathewes/Block Club Chicago

UPTOWN — Uptown’s newest gallery is open and looking to support Black and Brown artists in Chicago. 

Uptown Gallery, 4802 N. Broadway above Green Mill, had its opening MIXTAPE show last month. The show hosted artists from across Chicago, featuring work that was broadly music-centered. 

Henok Misgina, the owner and founder of Uptown Gallery, has lived in Uptown for the past six years and grew up visiting family in the neighborhood. After collecting art for years, he decided to open the gallery to give underrepresented artists a platform. 

“Having gone through COVID and having some time to really reflect on the things I’m passionate about, I realized this was one of them,” Misgina said. “I love art. I love helping to elevate individuals. I love building community. And I love Uptown.”

The overall vision for the gallery is still evolving, but it will prioritize work from local artists, Misgina said. 

“There’s a whole slew of Chicago artists that I’ve continued to watch grow,” Misgina said. “Making sure that there’s a focus on local Chicago artists, making sure that there’s a focus on underrepresented artists — those are the priorities.” 

Kyle Lilly, the curator for the MIXTAPE show, carving out spaces for Black artists is especially important as the neighborhood rapidly gentrifies. 

“We really just wanted to show that Black artists are still creating in Uptown,” Lilly said. “They’re still here, even though like the powers that be, exclude these groups. We’re still here doing amazing things and creating and telling stories through so many different art forms.”

Lilly and Kyle both said weaving visual art and music, particularly in the Uptown neighborhood, was a main inspiration of the MIXTAPE show. 

“It was really humbling that people believe in that vision and are wanting to come out and support,” Lilly said. 

Dee Lionezz, a 29-year-old South Sider, showcased a 36-by-36 acrylic on canvas portrait of rapper Noname and imagery related to the themes of Noname’s Book Club

“I love the mission of this entire gallery,” Lionezz said. “It was a beautiful experience altogether. I started taking art seriously last year. So when Kyle reached out to me, I was just like, ‘Okay, this is the perfect opportunity.’ And with the theme of this entire gallery being based on music…it was just a blessing.” 

Moving forward, Misgina aims to create a space for underrepresented artists to flourish and contribute to the cultural landscape of Uptown. 

“I’m excited about building a space that is a presence and it also influences Uptown hopefully for the better.”

You can stay up to date with showings and artists at Uptown Gallery via their Instagram page.

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