THE LOOP — As temperatures climb, shoppers, tourists and Chicagoans enjoying State Street are looking for more reasons to stay out later.
"There's a surprising lack of things to do on State Street beyond 8 p.m., or even earlier really. If you're not eating, you're heading home," said Tristan Hummel, programs manager and curator at Chicago Loop Alliance. "So this event is nice because it keeps people on the street a little bit longer, they get to see the Loop after hours."
Now in its fifth year, the program transforms empty storefronts into temporary "pop-up" art galleries, which showcase artwork at no charge year-round, including special events held the first Thursday of each month every spring.
Guests are led through a self-guided tour of the galleries scattered around the Loop. Many display artwork through the storefront windows exclusively, but at sites where interiors are accessible, free beer and wine will be served alongside musical performances and "live art-making," Hummel said.
"The galleries are around and operational throughout the year, but we only do these big pushes to bring a mass of people from May through October," Hummel said. "That's when we serve cocktails and try to make it a festive environment as much as we can."
In the special "Art Slant" gallery at 202 S. State St., artwork will rotate monthly as part of a contest: The winning artist gets a trip to Art Basel, a big-ticket annual art fair in Miami.
The Chicago Loop Alliance was created in 2005 by downtown neighborhood associations to boost economic prosperity in the central business district with art installations like the Technicolor "Color Jam" that blanketed State Street last year.
The secondary purpose of the pop-up galleries is to bring attention to vacant storefronts downtown to encourage new tenants.
Hummel said last week that at a recent retreat for Chicago Loop Alliance board members, area property owners were enthusiastic about the project.
"Their positive outlook on it can only be attributed to its ability to get things rented," Hummel said. "We're definitely good about drawing attention to the spaces and helping keep tenancy high."
Hummel said the Chicago Loop Alliance is confident that the Pop-Up Art Loop program enriches the experience for visitors to the Loop during Chicago's most vibrant seasons.
"That kind of exposure is good for the Loop," Hummel said. "It helps people start to associate the Loop with having fun in the evening."