Art Break: Shop Open-New City

Bert Stabler

Combining as best it could the functions of a youth-tutoring and adult-education provider, a counseling center and a social service agency, the Blue Gargoyle, located in a grand decaying mansion in Hyde Park, closed its doors in 2009. But for the next year, the space will be brought back to life as a community art center, known as the Southside Hub of Production, or SHoP. John Preus, formerly of the reclamation and construction collective Material Exchange, has been central to the buildout and programming of the space, along with Laura Shaeffer, whose Op Shop initiative has occupied various temporary locations throughout the Hyde Park neighborhood over the past two years. For last weekend’s grand opening, people got a chance to see some features that are intended to remain consistent throughout the SHoP lifespan, things like a child-care area with guided art-making, a potluck table, an ongoing rummage sale and a functional woodworking shop for adults as well as another for kids—aspects that offer at least a grassroots echo of the nonprofit functions undertaken by the former residents. In addition, there will be a seed bank, a library, a movement space, studio spaces for artists and a time bank for service bartering.

For the inaugural exhibit, “It Is What It Is,” the kitchen nook, transformed by Preus into a pub and dubbed The Red Flags Salon, featured a video by Michael Phillips titled “Something Is Taking Its Course,” in which viewers could partake of the dubious pleasure of a football game with all the action edited out. The “Hyde Park Kunstverein,” in what might have been the master bedroom, contains George Kagan’s remarkable installation of vintage radios. Screening in the basement was an eerie abstract video by performance artist Adam Rose, created as a meditation on the basement as an uninhabited space, and the first in a series of video portraits of rooms in the house. Clusters of paper sculptures contributed by Stacza Lipinski adorn the stairwell, alongside planter installations in the banister made by Jennifer Yorke. Marvin Tate, known for his vocal performances with Theaster Gates, among others, did an installation of glowing jars of varied contents in the darkened pantry; JayVe Montgomery, who has worked in conjunction with Gates’ nearby Dorchester Project, showed some audio and video work created with young people, and did an audio piece using recorded sounds from the opening event. Aaron J. Maier, known by his screen name YonderVittles as part of the incredible online VHS archiving project Everything Is Terrible!, participated in a screening upstairs, curated by Michael Phillips, as well as presenting, in the rummage-sale room, a video installation of fuzzy monitors attached to a giant-tree-style scratching post. There was more semi-creepy fuzzy installation art in the bathrooms, courtesy of Katherine Harvath. An animation series curated by Vicky Yen and Jenna Caravello was shown, and will also screen during SHoP open hours. These hours, as well as other operational details, have yet to be finalized, but interested parties can stay abreast of updates via the website,

As a side note, Sara Black, also formerly of the group Material Exchange, is working along with Sarah and Joseph Belknap on a large installation project in Ryerson Woods in southeast Lake County. There will be an event there on October 23, when viewers can experience “Perpetual Motion of a Still Life,” a huge reclaimed-wood apparatus in which a 1500-pound enclosure (housing a small bowl of artificial fruit), dangling from a thirty-foot arm pivoting on a ten-foot fulcrum, is balanced by a 300-pound basket of real (rotting) fruit. Inside the enclosure will be pieces by Jeanne Dunning, Jessica Labatte, Mark Rospenda, Claire Ashley and Kristina Paabus, works that, according to the press release, will “further consider the historical role of still life and landscape painting as an attempt to describe truth through imagery.” (Bert Stabler) SHoP is located at 5638 South Woodlawn. Sara Black shows October 23 at the Ryerson Woods, Lake County.