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Ed Paschke Art Center to Open June 22 on Northwest Side

  The center, across the street from Jefferson Memorial Park, will recreate Paschke's studio from 2004.
Ed Paschke Art Center
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JEFFERSON PARK — The Ed Paschke Art Center will open June 22 in Jefferson Park on what would have been the internationally acclaimed pop artist's 75th birthday, organizers announced Tuesday.

The art center, funded by the Rabb Family Foundation, will keep the Chicago artist's legacy alive for a new generation of Chicagoans, while giving emerging artists a place to hone their craft, said Vesna Stelcer, chairwoman of the Ed Paschke Foundation board of directors.

Heather Cherone chats with DNAinfo Radio about the Ed Paschke Center planning to open in June:

The art center's permanent home will be the first floor of 5415 W. Higgins Ave., in a building now occupied by companies owned by Lionel Rabb, founder of the Rabb Family Foundation. It is across the street from Jefferson Memorial Park, which Rabb is working to completely renovate with private donations.

The building on Higgins will be renovated, and Rabb's companies will maintain offices on the building's second floor, said Jeanine Riedl, a spokeswoman for the art center. There are no longer any plans to build a new facility for the art center, she added.

Riedl declined to reveal how much money the Rabb Family Foundation is planning to contribute to the creation of the art center.

Admission to the art center, which will be open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., will be free, in keeping with Paschke's desire to ensure that his art is accessible to everyone, not just those able to afford a ticket to an art museum or gallery, the foundation said.

The art center will be in the heart of the Jefferson Park Business District, which has struggled for years to fill empty storefronts and attract shoppers and diners. The art center will be just off the CTA Blue Line, near the Jefferson Park Transit Center.

"We hope that the surrounding community will benefit from having access to the programming, exhibitions and events that will take place at the Ed Paschke Art Center," Riedl said.

Paschke, who often was called Chicago's most important visual artist, rose to prominence in the late 1960s as part of a group of artists known as the Imagists. The son of Polish immigrants, Paschke was born on the Northwest Side near Central Park and Diversey avenues and raised in the northwest suburbs.

The center will feature a collection of Paschke's work, which often featured up-close paintings of people's faces using vibrant color and intricate patterns, in a 2,800-square-foot gallery. An educational space will take up another 1,700 square feet, and the center will include a recreation of Paschke's studio in 2004, the year he died.

 Ed Paschke
Ed Paschke
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The Ed Paschke Foundation

Paschke's studio will give visitors a glimpse of his artistic process, from coming up with an idea for a piece of art to completing it, in an effort to give his work "greater context and meaning," Riedl said.

Of his art, "which captured the grittiness of urban life and used various forms of media and technology," Paschke once said, “They either love it or hate it, but rarely are they indifferent to it,” according to the foundation.

The Paschke Art Center also will showcase other Chicago artists and include an artist-in-residence program, according to the foundation.

To mark the opening of the center and Paschke's 75th birthday on June 22, Jefferson Memorial Park will host Paschke in the Park, which will feature Paschke-inspired community art projects, food and entertainment.

Upcoming events planned for the center include a Paul Natkin photography exhibition, a collaboration with Luminarts, a cultural foundation that supports and encourages rising Chicago artists, and a Steve Schapiro exhibit titled "Andy Warhol, Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground. "

Earlier this year, the Rabb Family Foundation transformed a barren viaduct under the Metra tracks near the Kennedy Expy. along Lawrence Avenue into a high-tech art gallery and mural featuring some of Paschke's most recognizable works, including "Accordion Man" from 1969, "Guitao" from 1978, "Calypso Rojo" from 1979, "Marbillize" from 1993, "El Tropica" from 1998 and "Starr Blue" from 2003.

Some of Paschke's work during the 1980s focused on manipulating the images of iconic figures such as Elvis Presley, Abraham Lincoln and Adolf Hitler. He also cited the animation of Disney and cartoons as sources of his inspiration, along with the work of his father, who was also an artist.

Paschke's work has been featured in a retrospective at the Art Institute of Chicago and at the Pompidou Center and Louvre Museum in Paris. A street by the Art Institute is named in his honor.

Paschke taught at Northwestern University for 27 years and served as the chairman of its  Department of Art Theory and Practice. 

The School of the Art Institute and the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University will provide "art-related counsel" and 3M will make "in-kind" contributions to the art center, Riedl said.