Back in the late 1990s, David Weinberg sold his stake in his family’s business, the automotive parts manufacturer Fel-Pro, after 35 years. Following a few uninspiring years consulting in the industry, he decided to give it all up to pursue his passion for photography, opening David Weinberg Photography in 2006. Over the last decade Weinberg has shifted the River North gallery’s focus from serving as an exhibit space for his own work to hosting broadly contemporary commercial work—and last fall the photographer’s ongoing commitment to social justice issues inspired him to begin displaying only community-oriented work that comes out of a collaboration with a nonprofit organization.
“I started to feel like we could be serving a better purpose,” Weinberg says. “My involvement with so many social justice organizations was telling me that they have wonderful ways of communicating what they do, but very few were able to communicate artistically. We started to think that we could turn the gallery into an extension of those organizations, and work with them on exhibits where we show their issues, and where they can use the space creatively.”
Weinberg and his staff meet with nonprofit organizations to learn about their particular causes and to brainstorm ways of teasing out those issues through art. They curate an exhibition, and when a work is sold, the revenue is split evenly between the artist who made the piece and the partner organization. The gallery has mounted exhibits on youth incarceration, poverty, and gun violence. Currently on display is “Field Study,” an ecologically themed show created with the photography advocacy organization Filter Photo to benefit the nature conservation group Openlands. This winter, Weinberg’s gallery will work with Boystown’s Center on Halsted to explore trans identity.
Art with a social justice bent has “the potential for sparking conversation—bringing people in from all over who can talk about the issues that are up,” Weinberg says. “Lately we’ve been talking to legislators and suggesting that they could come together in a bipartisan way and actually meet in the gallery and have their conversations because it’s a neutral ground. We’re not taking a stand, telling them to do this or do that—we’re just presenting information they can think about.”
“Field Study,” through 10/3, David Weinberg Photography, 300 W. Superior, suite 203, 312-529-5090, d-weinberg.com.