Highland Park’s art, commerce join forces
"Homage to Chagall," by Suzanne Horwitz of Highland Park, on display through June at the Nail Bar, 662 Central Ave., Highland Park.
Highland Park Art Walk
Where: Downtown Highland Park
When: June 1-30
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In Highland Park, support of the arts doesn’t just talk the talk; it walks the walk, every year around this time.
The seventh annual Highland Park Art Walk, a juried show featuring the work of Illinois artists, will be displayed throughout the month of June in 20 downtown shops and businesses. Artists will appear at the stores hosting their work from 2 to 4 p.m. June 16, followed by a party, award ceremony and silent auction at Blue Rose Gallery.
“It’s good for the artists and it’s good for the shops,” said Art Walk curator Debra Hatchett. “It brings a lot of traffic into stores as opposed to tented art fairs, which some store-owners consider competition.
Good for all
“And it’s also good for the city. Highland Park has great support for the arts, but there are still a lot of people who would never think of going to a commercial art gallery. Either they’re intimidated, or they just never think about doing that sort of thing. This is a much more inclusive way of making good art available to the community in general.”
Hatchett has been exhibiting art in increasingly commercial spaces since 1991 when she created the non-profit visual arts organization Anatomically Correct, after beginning to provide Chicago theaters with lobby shows designed to relate thematically to their stage production with funds provided by grants. She has worked with some of the most prominent theaters in the city, including Steppenwolf, the Apollo and the Athenaeum, where she recently curated a solo show by painter Erin Waser.
Before launching Anatomically Correct, she ran her own gallery in Bucktown, primarily as a response to artist friends’ complaints of mistreatment by commercial galleries.
“It was tough,” she said, of her short-lived attempt to run a gallery in the Wild West days of pre-gentrification Bucktown. As an artist herself, though, she was sympathetic to the plight of artists forced to rely on gallery owners to present their work to the public.
“It seemed everyone had an awful story to tell,” she recalled. “Galleries were selling their work and not paying them, or taking it from them, or damaging it during exhibitions. It seemed to me there had to be some other way for artists to have the public see their work.”
Highland Park’s Art Walk began as a result of a collaboration between Hatchett and an artists’ co-op in Highland Park, which had been arranging alternative sites for their own work. When the co-op disbanded, Hatchett inherited the project.
“It turned out to be a good inheritance, though,” she said.
The Art Walk has become a popular feature of the Highland Park art scene during the past seven years. And one that is particularly appreciated by local artists, who are sometimes treated as prophets without honor by area art shows seeking to attract national talent.
“We have so many extremely talented artists in Illinois, but local organizers don’t tend to see that,” she said. “They tend to assume that just because someone’s from New York, for example, their work will have more validity. I think it’s a good idea to show some appreciation for the great work that’s being done in our own back yard.”