Hot Wheelz Festival, performance work by Wanbli Gamache, both prerecorded and live as part of LVL3 programming. Credit: Courtesy Hot Wheelz Festival. Photo by Kaitlyn Albrecht

Last week, we offered a (very partial) guide to some theater and dance events (as well as pop-up performances, playwrights, and artist-activists) that our writers and some curators in the community are excited about this fall. This week, we’re following up with tips from two visual arts curators, as well as ideas for getting out of your house and enjoying some views of other homes and landmarks through (socially distanced) architectural tours. In the case of galleries, we suggest checking ahead before you plan your visit, as hours may be subject to change and some venues are only open by appointment.

Architectural and other walking tours (Kerry Reid)

Open House Chicago

The Chicago Architecture Center’s annual celebration of great (and sometimes lesser-known) Chicago buildings had to be scaled back this year for COVID-19, in the sense that you can’t go into any of the buildings as part of the tour. But to make up for that, CAC is expanding Open House Chicago to cover 10 days instead of the usual one weekend, with self-guided walking tours (featuring narration from local luminaries) available through an app and a focus on 22 different neighborhoods throughout the city. 10/16-10/25,, free

Chicago Elevated

Over the years, I’ve gone on several tours led by Margaret Hicks, the effervescent and knowledgeable proprietor of Chicago Elevated, ranging from the binoculars tour (focusing on the ornamental architectural details that we often miss in passing) and the Disaster! tour, which highlights how much of Chicago’s history is tied in with catastrophes caused by human error and greed (the Iroquois Theatre fire, the Eastland). After a COVID hiatus, Hicks is back on her feet, and you and your small group can book her for a private exploration of Chicago architecture, history, and assorted trivia and lore. Bad weather? No problem—Hicks offers a tour of downtown’s pedways., $50 per person for two-hour tour ($200 minimum)

(Kerry Reid is the Reader theater and dance editor.)

Artists and galleries to check out now (Lauren Iacoponi)

Roland Santana

From chunky paintings to mammoth-sized colorful canvas works, Roland Santana is preoccupied with color, texture, and shape as they relate to contemporary painting and sculpture. Santana is eclectic in his use of tools and artistic mediums, which range from mixed media paintings to silicone, mortar mix, and other industrial materials. Santana’s most recent works exist somewhere between painting and sculpture as colorful slabs cut into organic shapes.

Santana’s solo exhibition the gum beneath your shoe at Baby Blue Gallery runs through 10/18. Santana’s work is also featured in Artist Run Chicago 2.0 under AMFM’s booth at the Hyde Park Art Center.

Sarah Leuchtner

Working between zip tie textiles and flat graphic canvas works, Sarah Leuchtner employs both paint and materiality in unique geometric compositions. Her meticulous zip tie ‘sculptures’ incorporate grids to compose graphic and iconographic imagery on one side, and a wash of this imagery on the other in the form of textured fiber paintings. 

Leuchtner’s work is currently on exhibit in a group show at Hans Gallery through 10/24. Her work is also featured in NADA Chicago Gallery Open under Bianca Bova Gallery through 10/15.

Sarah Dupré

Expressive and tactile, Sarah Dupré’s compositions strike a balance between weighted and airy mark making. Dupré explores the relationship between drawing and painting with canvas works, graphite drawings, scratchboards, and relief prints. Dupré uses graphite, oils, house paint, acrylics, and pastels to create layered abstract paintings that are both gestural and dense. 

Dupré currently has work at Studio 6F and was most recently exhibited in a two-person exhibition at Cleaner Gallery + Projects over the summer. Dupré is a board member of Purple Window Gallery and will exhibit with Oliva Gallery in 2021.

Cleaner Gallery + Projects

Cleaner Gallery + Projects is one of my favorite artist-run spaces in Chicago. Up until seven months ago the space operated under the name Night Light Gallery with an intimate exhibition space limited to the storefront window of the Humboldt Park artist studio. Recently, Cleaner Gallery’s director Ryan Burns remodeled the studios and built out the gallery to 235 square feet. Burns continues to curate dynamic exhibitions with his platform and creates an inviting environment by implementing backyard bonfires at each of his exhibitions.

Up now/up next: Cleaner Gallery + Projects is currently showing Fruitless: Paintings by Christian Campos, through 10/24 The next exhibition by Kelly Reaves and Mel Cook will run 11/6-12/12. Cleaner Gallery + Projects is taking part in Artist Run Chicago 2.0 at Hyde Park Art Center.

Hello USPS

Hello USPS is a mail art project led by Purple Window Gallery to support the United States Postal Service. The initiative calls for artists to share their mailing addresses to receive a prestamped envelope with a postcard in the mail. Artists are asked to compose artwork on the postcard and send it to a loved one. The final recipient of the card should then share an image of their postcard over Instagram tagging @purplewindowgallery for the gallery to archive and create a physical installation from the printed media. (For full disclosure, I am the director of this project space. Interested in participating? Email for details.)

<i>Hello USPS</i>: Rebecca Griffith, Flash Dance Cover, VHS Cover and Tracing Paper on Purple Window Postcard
Hello USPS: Rebecca Griffith, Flash Dance Cover, VHS Cover and Tracing Paper on Purple Window PostcardCredit: Michael Sacco

Hot Wheelz Festival

Hot Wheelz Festival is a live art platform and curatorial residency created by young art professionals Jill Perez and Lauren Steinberg. The platform was developed in the wake of COVID-19 to help artists and curators stay connected and show new work. The residency is formatted as a week-long virtual program featuring curators, spaces, and collectives that loosely address the question “How do we keep moving?” Hot Wheelz Festival kicked off this September with Maggie Wong (Gothwerk), followed by the Wicker Park artist space LVL3 (programming now available online at

Up next: 10/12-10/16: Sarah Skaggs and Constanza Mendoza Guerra present I can see my house from here, featuring new collaborative work by F.M.7, Eliane Adela Padrón, and Margarita Lizcano Hernandez. This residency will be a reunion of collaborators and friends currently dispersed around the world and immobilized by pandemic in New York, Havana, Chicago, and Amsterdam. 10/26-10/30: DIVINE, featuring programming by DIVINE cocreators Ry Douglas and Sebastian Olayo. In their residency, Douglas and Olayo will be exploring spirituality through a critical queer, trans, BIPOC lens by producing workshops, dialogues, and performance(s).

Artists Run Chicago 2.0 at Hyde Park Art Center 

The beauty of Artists Run Chicago 2.0 is that it brings 50 of Chicago’s most interesting artist-run spaces together under one roof. These spaces run the gamut from storefronts, apartments, warehouses, garages, and ‘nomadic existences’ that serve as platforms to exhibit art. Chicago’s alternative and DIY art spaces challenge the traditional gallery model and serve to build community among artists. Being able to visit many of my favorite spaces in one visit makes Artists Run Chicago 2.0 a must-see exhibition this fall. Through 11/2,

Anna Kunz, The Blue Magnitude at McCormick Gallery

One of my favorite Chicago painters, Kunz has the unique ability to transform a room with color. Primary colors are dominant to her color palette, depicted in various tones and shades that pull across the canvas in marks, patterns, and shapes that overlap and repeat. Patches of overlying color, translucent and opaque, play with the properties of chroma that both reflect and absorb. Available by appointment (Kunz will be on hand every Friday 10 AM-2 PM),

Fête Galante at Heaven Gallery

Heaven Gallery in Wicker Park is yet another one of my favorite spaces to discover artists. With a rotation of curators and exhibiting artists, there is always something new and exciting on exhibit. This is no exception for the current exhibition Fête Galante, curated by Gwendolyn Zabicki and featuring works by Elise Ansel, Karen Azarnia, Aglae Bassens, Katarina Janeckova, Aubrey Levinthal, Tess Michalik, Kelly Neibert, Sophie Treppendahl, Melissa Murray, Laura Wetter, and Greta Waller. The exhibition reflects the juiciness of paint and its seductive tactile abilities as shown in lush scenes, opulent still lifes, and ornamental subjects. Through 10/25,; Heaven Gallery also has a presence at Artists Run Chicago 2.0 at Hyde Park Art Center.)

(Lauren Iacoponi is an artist and curator for Purple Window Gallery)

Promising exhibits (Ciera McKissick)

Amoako Boafo at Mariane Ibrahim 

The shows coming out of Mariane Ibrahim have been consistently good—the recent Clotilde Jiménez show, before that the group show curated by Hélio Menezes, and the strong debut show with Ayana V. Jackson. So, I was really excited to see that the next show would be Amoako Boafo’s I Stand By Me. I had been following his work for a minute through social media and have always been drawn to the textures and mark making in the works, so I am excited to see them up close and in person. The show’s subjects are also inspired by Black emerging designers and creatives, and even some recognizable ones like Jay Z. The gallery is open by appointment or you can view the works in a virtual gallery. I’m just excited by this gallery in general and the great Black contemporary art coming out of it. Through 10/24,

Jake Troyli at Monique Meloche

I first came across Jake Troyli’s work through my job with Ox-Bow School of Art. I see a lot of artists’ work due to our residency program, and I remembered the humor through the scenarios and caricature of himself he presents in his work, as well as the vibrant colors and playfulness. I kept hearing his name pop up after that, so I’ve been following his progression. He was featured in New American Paintings, and then the next thing I know, he was showing at Monique Meloche for a group show, and now he’s represented by her and has his first Chicago solo exhibition, Don’t Forget to Pack A Lunch! Through 10/31,

Leasho Johnson at FLXST Contemporary

Leasho Johnson is another artist I have been following since seeing his work in a residency application, and through SAIC—he’s a recent grad. I was asked to review the SAIC Graduate Virtual Show, The Future of Our Plans, and pick three artists I liked, and he was one of them. I love the abstraction over the black silhouettes, and the shapes and forming of bodies in the collages, and thought it was an interesting way to depict the figure. I was excited to see that he now has a solo exhibition up at FLXST Contemporary, Only when it’s dark enough can you see the stars, which is named after an MLK speech. Through 10/25,

Goldfinch: A mirror, a dish, a window 

I have been curious about how artists have been responding to the current times, and about this idea of slowness and collective domesticity that many of us were and still are feeling. Goldfinch’s new group show featuring Zakkiyyah Najeebah Dumas-O’Neal, Lesley Jackson, James Kao, Minami Kobayashi, Emily Sher, and Ann Toebbe explores what that space and feeling is through a series of works focused on interiors and intimacy. I love the range of the show and the perspectives shown through various forms from photography, sculpture and painting, and mixed media. Through 10/17,

Artists Run Chicago 2.0 at Hyde Park Art Center

This has to be one of the best shows up in Chicago right now, and not just because I work at the Hyde Park Art Center. The show is a nod to Chicago artists and spacemakers, and it features 50 artist-run spaces who have all curated mini-exhibitions within the institution. The entire building is covered in art, from the gallery walls to the office walls and bathroom spaces. There’s a great representation of galleries and spaces from all over the city. The show is a reboot from the original exhibition in 2009. Only six spaces still exist in the showcase now from the original show, which is a testament to how artist-run spaces are a staple of a particular space and time in the arts scene of a city. Through 11/2,

Artist in Presidents

Jen Delos Reyes told me about an awesome project she was a part of when I was writing her Art 50 write-up for NewCity, and it sounded really awesome. Fifty artists were asked to address the nation over radio, podcast, social media, and in a virtual gallery leading up to the election. Since artists are the gatekeepers of truth, I was excited to find out it just launched, and there are some great artists on the roster along with Jen, like United States Artists’ president and CEO Deana Haggag, Miranda July, Madame Gandhi, and more.

(Ciera McKissick is the founder of AMFM, a curator, and a 2019 3Arts “Make a Wave” artist.)  v