18th Street Pilsen Open Studios returns this weekend

Pilsen-Open-Studio-banner[dropcap]P[/dropcap]ilsen Open Studios will return to 18th Street this weekend. Now celebrating its 13th year, the annual art walk will feature artists at 38 galleries, cultural centers and cafes and studios open to the public.

“I would say it is the largest weekend-long art walk in the city, in the coolest artist neighborhood in the city,” said Teresa Magaña. She’s a co-owner at Pilsen Outpost, 1958 W. 21st St., a shop that showcases the work of local emerging community artists. In addition to running Pilsen Outpost, she also an artist who’s work is influenced by her rich Mexican culture and heavily themed around the celebration of Dia De Los Muertos. While she’s participated in the art walk before, this year she was tapped to be one of the event’s co-organizers.

“This is actually one of the largest and longest running art walks that has been going on in Chicago and we’re very proud it’s in a Latino neighborhood,” she said.

The 18th St. Pilsen Open Studios art walk began in 2003 by a group of longtime Pilsen artists, the majority of which were Latino. The focus of the weekend event is on “studios” as the place of production, allowing the public a rare glimpse at where and how art in Pilsen is made.

One thing that sets Pilsen Open Studios apart from other art walks is that it’s not limited to galleries and cafés, there are home studios and alternative creative spaces that participate each year as well.

The artists involved in the event either work or live in the neighborhood, or have a strong historical connection to Pilsen. And a limited number of cultural spaces and businesses in Pilsen also participate in the art walk to showcase work from Pilsen-connected artists who don’t have a studio in the neighborhood.

“You get to actually go into an artist’s studio, not just the gallery. So if you have been curious about what an artist is like, go into their studios,” said Magaña. “And there’s something different happening this time around. A group of about 20 artists are showing their work at the little park house at Barrett Park, right off the corner of Cermak Road and Damen Avenue.”

Len Dominguez is the director at Carlos & Dominguez Fine Arts, 1538 W. Cullerton St., which showcases paintings, sculpture, photography, and mixed media art of artists from North, Central, and South America.

“I first participated in Pilsen Open Studios 12 years ago, and I think since then it’s matured a lot,” he said. “You have more artists who have been around awhile and younger artists too. Before it was a group of artists that knew each other and now it’s grown to feature younger artists that are new to the community.”

Dominguez added that he’s excited for his gallery’s “Cartoons With a Conscience” show that will be on display during this weekend’s art walk.

“We’re having ten artists, each of whom have done political cartoons,” he said. “[Cartoonist] Eric J. Garcia has been doing this for a number of years with a Chicano twist. So I asked him to curate the show and he had friends he invited that do political cartoons as well.”

Dominguez says to his knowledge it’s the first time someone has done something focused on political cartoons for Pilsen Open Studios.

“You see these retrospectives like, propaganda during a war, at places like the Art Institute, but nothing really focused on a local political scene, like Chicago,” he said. “The idea is really something that I can get excited about, I’m getting really good reactions from people who are exited to see it.”

The kickoff event for this weekend’s art walk will the opening reception of “Made in Pilsen X,” an exhibition featuring local and internationally known artists at Prospectus Art Gallery, 1210 W. 18th St., on Friday at 5 p.m.

Then on Saturday begin your exploration of the art walk’s 38 participating locations on 18th Street from noon to 8 p.m. Don’t worry if you can’t visit all the locations on Saturday as the art will continue on Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.

“I would say start at the first spot, number one on Saturday,” says Magaña. “Because in the first few locations you’ll see a mix of a home studio, a gallery space, a café that’s hosting an artist, and an outdoor area. So on the first day start at the beginning and then on the second day start at the end and work your way into the middle to see everything.”

In addition to the artist spaces attendees will also be able to take a free, guided walking tour of Pilsen’s colorful and significant murals. Tours meet at the National Museum of Mexican Art, 1852 W. 19th St., at 2 p.m. each day of the art walk.

“And this year a new cool thing we’re doing is a virtual, interactive online map that you can access on your phone,” said Magaña.

For more information on this weekend’s art walk visit pilsenopenstudios.net and check out the interactive map on the “18th Street Pilsen Open Studios – 2015” Facebook event page.

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