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Artisans 21 Cooperative Gallery in Hyde Park to Close

By Sam Cholke | December 3, 2013 8:22am
 Artisans 21 cooperative gallery will close its doors for good in Hyde Park on Christmas Eve.
Artisans 21 cooperative gallery will close its doors for good in Hyde Park on Christmas Eve.
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DNAinfo/Sam Cholke

HYDE PARK — After 37 years, the cooperative gallery Artisans 21 will close its doors in Hyde Park on Christmas Eve.

“Hyde Park is not supporting us, we're not making enough to pay the rent," said Anne Arnas, president of the gallery.

Arnas said the gallery had been in the red since it moved out of Harper Court in 2008 when the shopping center was demolished to make way for the University of Chicago's new office tower.

The gallery, which is owned and operated by the artists that exhibit at 5503½ S. Hyde Park Blvd., will host its last open house at 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and then on Christmas Eve will close its doors for good.

“We're going to close it forever,” said Rob Borja, a calligrapher who has exhibited work at Artisans 21 for nearly a decade. “We were living beyond our means for a long time.”

Arnas said a member of the cooperative was helping the gallery stay afloat after leaving Harper Court for a storefront at 1373 E. 53rd St. The gallery moved to a cheaper storefront on Hyde Park Boulevard in 2012 after that support ended.

After five of the 21 members of the cooperative left last month, the gallery couldn't afford to keep the barebones operation going, according to Arnas.

Arnas said to survive the gallery needed rents comparable to the $800 per month it pays just off 55th Street — and the foot traffic it enjoyed on 53rd Street.

“What I saw in there was good stuff, it was never a question of price or quality,” said Wallace Goode, director of the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce. “I really believe it was location."

Goode agreed with Arnas that Hyde Park has limited space right now for small businesses where rents are still affordable and there is significant foot traffic.

"Hyde Park has to find space for these kind of spaces," Goode said. "If not 53rd Street, then where?”

Artisans 21 originally opened in 1976 in the former Harper Court shopping center on 53rd Street, which was built in 1964 to provide affordable storefront space for artists after the artists' colony at 57th Street and Stony Island Avenue was demolished.