IRVING PARK — The transformation of the former Chicago Latvian Association building into an artist studio and cultural center will be complete Saturday.
Abby Monroe and Josh Dihle bought the property at 4146 N. Elston Ave. in April 2020 and began upgrading the building, renaming it Color Club.
Part of their plan was to hold public cultural programs, but the pandemic delayed that by more than a year. They opened Color Club in 2021, holding private events and providing gallery space and studios for local artists.
Last year, the owners applied for a license to allow them to sell tickets for plays and arts-focused performances. The city approved their permits earlier this month.
To commemorate the occasion, Color Club’s first public, ticketed event will be an hour-long reading from spoken word poet Rudy Francisco.
“We’re very excited for this new chapter,” Monroe said.
More events are in the pipeline. Color Club will hold Barely Fair, an international art fair featuring work from 30 art galleries, project spaces and curatorial projects organized by Dihle, Tony Lewis, Roland Miller and Kate Sierzputowski in April.
The art on display will be miniatures, with works one-twelfth the size of what they would normally be, Dihle said.
Dihle is an artist who paints and carves and teaches at the School of the Art Institute. Monroe has worked in community engagement over the past 15 years.
The couple fell in love with the character of the 92-year-old building and worked to preserve as much of it as possible while renovating it.
The building was home of the International Order of Vikings from 1922 through 1958, then housed the Chicago Latvian Association for 62 years.
The couple repurposed rooms into artist studios, shared tool shops, a library, multi-purpose rooms and other things while keeping the second-floor ballroom and tavern as performance and community gathering spaces.
In addition to performances and art fairs, the new licenses allow Color Club to hold events like woodworking and ceramics classes, Monroe said.
“If people are curious about the space, we’re definitely wiling to give tours,” Monroe said. “We’re here, and we’d like to share the space.”
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