I’ve been enjoying the virtual aspects of my art-viewing experience the past few months. People got a little experimental; they had to think outside of the box to get folks to view work. I, by no means, plan to attend opening receptions or risk my health to commute around the city to check out art on a wall, but now that physical spaces are reopening I will travel to a gallery or two to see a show if proper regulations are put into place (like I did with Western Exhibitions).
This weekend I took a little trip up to Andersonville and when I passed by a bar, I heard people screaming and cheering. From. The. Inside. It was like normal times. I had to pause and peep inside. urely I wasn’t imagining this. Sure enough, there was a drag queen spinning around a pole in a Dolly Parton wig. Masks were nowhere to be seen as folks were packed in the tiny place. Horrified, I continued walking.
It’s no wonder everyone else is feeling the pressure to reopen. If we can hoot, scream, and cheer, why wouldn’t the masses flock to everything else? If they are doing it, why can’t we? It starts as a trickle and becomes a flood. Before I could even blink, I was getting e-mail notifications about museums and galleries reopening. While I may not personally be rushing to step inside (although my experience at Western Exhibitions almost makes more sense than walking down a busy neighborhood street), it seems a lot safer and justifiable than ordering a cheeseburger and swapping flying particles of spit with the table next to me.
If you’re looking to get outside of your house and into a new white-wall setting, here are a few places where you can do so safely.
Dank Haus Gallery
The German American Cultural Center Gallery is having its first public event with the Chicago Alliance of Visual Artists (CAVA) since the pandemic started. “Urban Lives/Social Fabric” will open with the theme of how artists cope, view, and emotionally traverse turbulent times. The artists involved in the group show focus on the city’s industry, Chicago neighborhoods, festivals, and the diversity that make up the city. The opening of the reception will adhere to strict mask requirements and hand sanitizing stations. Located in the heart of Lincoln Square, the gallery requires visitors to RSVP to the exhibition’s two reception sessions, which are Fri 7/24, 5 PM-6 PM and 6:30 PM-8 PM.
Corbett vs Dempsey
After closing in mid-March, Corbett vs. Dempsey will be reopening with a new group show called “Cosmic Meteorites & Other Burners.” John Corbett says, “We are cautiously excited to reopen because making exhibitions in real space is what we do. There is no substitute for the experience of art in person.” Over the course of the pandemic, the gallery had various virtual initiatives as well as a series of online exhibitions called the “Big Dig,” which look at the archives of artists like Rebecca Morris and Karl Wirsum. The new group show looks at the idea of transition or transformation. Corbett says, “It was inspired by a group of ‘burners’ –ceramic objects meant to emit smoke during performance processions—by Cauleen Smith, as well as a glass-based sculpture by Josiah McElheny that consists of a beautiful blue ‘meteorite’ housed in a blue glass case. All the work in the show, somehow, has a kind of defiant radiance.” Visitors to the gallery will be required to wear a mask, make an appointment, and capacity will be limited to four folks in the gallery at a time. The exhibition runs through 8/29.
Art Institute of Chicago
After working throughout the pandemic on how to eventually reopen, the Art Institute announced its opening slated for Thu 7/30 with an exhibition of work by Malangatana Ngwenya, the pioneer of modern African art. The Art Institute invites visitors to purchase tickets in advance, wear the proper face coverings, and practice social distance. A spokesperson from the museum explains that the decision to reopen was “a combination of guidance from the city and state along with confidence in our ability to provide an environment where visitors feel safe and comfortable while enjoying an experience they have come to expect from the Art Institute.” Moreover, the spokesperson said that they were willing to adapt to the needs of visitors, “whether they visit on July 30, 2020 or July 30, 2030.”
Silver Room AMFM
Former gallery AMFM will be presenting the work of Isiah “ThoughtPoet” Vaney, at the Silver Room with the exhibition “Black & Mild.” The photographic works look at life in urban areas and how COVID-19 has impacted people in the artist’s neighborhood. The show was previously slated to be on view in April but was postponed due to the pandemic. All proceeds from purchasing work will go to BYP 100, Let Us Breathe Collective, and Good Kids Mad City. It’s on view until Fri 7/24.
Elmhurst Art Museum
The Elmhurst Museum’s reopening plan includes “A Space Problem,” which features local artists and mid-century furniture. In September, an exhibition of the early influences of Frank Lloyd Wright will open. In the main atrium, the museum will be displaying “Art in the Post,” which are postcards created by artists and community members on their experience during the last few months. Moreover, Luftwerk will be creating three colored flags that signal S.O.S. as an outdoor project for the museum.
John McKinnon, the executive director of the museum, explains that while they were closed, the museum regularly checked in with other organizations, reviewed CDC guidelines, and watched the reopening of other museums around the world. “We were prepared when Phase four protocol came out,” he says, “and opened just after other businesses in our immediate area.” The museum stayed busy during the pandemic, says McKinnon. During their closure, they created a new outlet called, “Museum From Home,” which included activities, charities, yard-sign campaigns, online talks, and a special Pride Month activity guide. “We plan to continue our ‘Museum From Home’ activities after reopening, which will provide in-person and remote possibilities to respond to our current exhibits,” says McKinnon.
Masks will be required, tickets should be purchased in advance, and capacity will be limited. Extra cleanings throughout the day and staff health checks are protocol within the museum. v