CHICAGO — Before Bridgeport was a cultural destination, brothers Al and Mike Pocius asked fellow artists to mail them pieces of cardboard art.
Then they'd collect the contributions, clear out Al's apartment in the 3200 block of South Racine Avenue and invite all the artists over for a one-night only party, putting the pieces on display and up for sale.
"Back then there was hardly any arts stuff going on in Bridgeport. If you were a South Sider, you were more interested in cars or boxing or girls," said Mike Pocius, 64. "But one of the initiatives of this whole thing was to find artists in the neighborhood to have a mixer. We developed a lot of friendships and it was a pretty fantastic thing."
That was 11 years ago, and they've been doing "The Cardboard Show" ever since.
The show returns to its neighborhood roots Friday at Project Onward, a nonprofit that supports developmentally and mentally disabled artists. The group recently moved into the Bridgeport Art Center, 1200 W. 35th St., just down the street from where "The Cardboard Show" all began.
"With our new venue, our new space and a big gallery, it was just a really good fit," Project Onward spokeswoman Rachael Zuppke said.
This year's display will feature contributions from more than 100 artists creating pieces guided by just one rule — use cardboard.
All of the pieces will be priced under $100. Proceeds from the art sale will be split, with 60 percent to the artist and 40 percent to Project Onward, though some artists have donated their pieces outright to the nonprofit group.
Admission to Friday's event is free. Guests wearing plaid will get a raffle ticket, good for a chance to win a piece of cardboard art. Otherwise, raffle tickets are $5.
Zuppke said the group will piggyback on the event with a fundraising "portrait slam" on Saturday, where guests can sit for portraits created by Project Onward artists using cardboard as a canvas.
Mike Pocius, a photographer, said the cardboard medium functions as a great equalizer when it comes to art.
"Whether you're considered great or not so good, if you're willing to do cardboard we post it," he said. "We make it 'art for all.'"
The 11th Annual Cardboard Show begins with an opening reception scheduled for 6-10 p.m. Friday. The exhibit runs through Nov. 27.