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South Chicago, East Side

Southeast Side Galleries Are Showing Female Artists This Month — And Want To Make The Area A Destination For Art

Maria Villarreal's annual group show of women artists returns for the first time during the pandemic at Under the Bridge Studios in East Side — with a boost from the gallery's new neighbor, Buena Vista Projects.

Masks (at left) and a sculpture (foreground) by Zor Zor Zor are on display at Buena Vista Projects, 10056 S. Ewing Ave., for one of two exhibitions of women artists that's being held in East Side this month. Behind the sculpture is a painting by Duk Ju L. Kim, and to the right is a piece by East Coast artist Kathleen Judge.
Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago
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EAST SIDE — Paintings, sculptures and other artwork created by women are the focus of an exhibition started by a Southeast Side textile artist, which is returning after a pandemic hiatus.

A free opening reception for the exhibition, titled “Sharing the Spirit of Women in the Arts,” is 1-4 p.m. Saturday at Under the Bridge Studios, 10052 S. Ewing Ave. in East Side.

An array of established artists, teens who have never shown in a gallery before, street artists, formally trained painters, art therapists and more will be featured in the exhibition, organizer Maria Villarreal said.

Credit: Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago
Teen artist Samantha Vega’s “Can’t Get Past the Thorns,” which honors Frida Kahlo and numerous other women who have “impacted the world on a great scale,” is the centerpiece of the Sharing the Spirit of Women in the Arts exhibition. This month’s exhibition is Vega’s first gallery showing, curator Maria Villarreal said.
Credit: Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago
A close-up of a new painting by Claudia Charo, which was completed from an existing drawing for the Sharing the Spirit exhibition, Villarreal said.

Many of the women on display “took the word ‘spirit’ to heart” and reflected their deep emotions, femininity, cultures and inspirations in their pieces, Villarreal said.

Featured artists include surrealist Claudia Charo, teen artist Samantha Vega and Villarreal, who contributed textile piece “Hope” to the show.

After this weekend, the exhibition is open to the public 1-3 p.m. Saturdays through March, which is Women’s History Month.

Several artisan vendors will sell their creations at a March 18 event as part of the exhibition, while some pieces in the show are for sale by request.

Villarreal’s show coincides with another exhibition of women artists at the neighboring Buena Vista Projects, a new gallery and studio at 10056 S. Ewing Ave. “When I Die, Remember Me” opens 1-7 p.m. Saturday and runs through April 1.

Local artists like Liz Born, of Hoofprint Workshops, and Amanda Joy Calobrisi, a professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, share space with artists like East Coast-based Kathleen Judge.

“Each artist here is really unique and really powerful,” artist and founder John Salhus said.

Credit: Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago
Faces from tattoo artist and muralist Zeye One on display at Buena Vista Projects Wednesday afternoon as John Salhus sets up the space for this month’s exhibition, “When I Die, Remember Me.”
Credit: Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago
A piece by Providence, Rhode Island-based artist Kathleen Judge on display at Buena Vista Projects depicts cubes of scrap metal. Judge, who has another piece at the exhibition featuring scrapped cars prior to being shredded, was “really inspired” by the industrial facilities that abound on the Southeast Side, Salhus said.

The women’s exhibition is one of two shows Villarreal regularly organizes at Under the Bridge, alongside an annual show for Día de los Muertos. She runs the gallery with her husband, prolific urban artist Roman Villarreal.

Sharing the Spirit offers a needed platform for women at all stages in their careers, Villarreal said.

About half of the artists are women Villarreal is friends with and worked with in the past, while everyone else — like Vega, a young artist with whom Villarreal connected through SkyART in South Chicago — are “all new to me,” she said.

“A lot of women, we don’t get enough show — at least out on the South Side,” Villarreal said. “I want to bring that [energy of], ‘Hey, you are somebody. Give me your work. Don’t judge yourself.'”

Under the Bridge’s collaboration with Buena Vista Projects is the second between the next-door neighbors. They worked together on November’s Día de los Muertos event.

The Villarreals have welcomed Salhus, who moved his practice from Bridgeport to East Side last year, with open arms, Maria Villarreal said.

“I told him, ‘There’s no competition here, John,'” she said. “We need art on the Southeast Side, the South Side — we need to wake up the people.”

Credit: Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago
John Salhus poses in his studio in front of his painting, “Portrait of the Artist,” which was completed last year before Salhus moved from Bridgeport to East Side.

Salhus hosted a show at Buena Vista Projects in the fall with two artists he’s known for decades — when the space was unfinished — but “When I Die, Remember Me” marks the gallery’s official launch, he said.

Salhus has transformed long-vacant former auto parts store into a gallery, studio and artist’s loft. He has a “grand idea” to renovate the building’s second-floor apartment and host artists-in-residence who would display on the first floor, he said.

Buena Vista Projects is “not so much a gallery — as in a commercial gallery — as it is a place for artists to come and do experimental projects,” Salhus said. “They would have the whole space to do something big.”

Salhus plans to host three or four shows per year at Buena Vista Projects, and he welcomes the idea of letting the Villarreals use the space if they need more room for an exhibition or event at Under the Bridge, he said.

The neighboring art spaces offer an exciting opportunity to make Salhus’ new Southeast Side community a destination for artists all over Chicago, he said.

“We’ve got Logan Square, we’ve got Humboldt Park, we’ve got Bridgeport, all coming down to here” for this month’s exhibitions, Salhus said. “They’re going to all intermingle, and it’s like a cross-pollination. That’s really, really cool.”

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