BEVERLY — Beverly was once noticeably absent from conversations about Chicago neighborhoods with vibrant, local art scenes, Monica Wilczak said.
Wilczak, a Beverly resident, was among those who three years ago set out to change that perception. She and other local artists were tired of being overlooked and frustrated with having to travel to the North and West Sides attend gallery openings and other artistic happenings.
So the Beverly Art Walk was born. The event returns from noon-7 p.m. Saturday, showcasing the work of some 200 artists in 55 locations throughout Beverly and Morgan Park. This year, the walk will also feature 30 musical acts, Wilczak said.
Howard Ludwig shares more details on the Beverly Art Walk.
"There were so many artists living here already. We just needed something to bring us together," she said.
Indeed, the Beverly Art Walk seems to have changed the neighborhood vibe — at least for an afternoon. Neighborhood restaurants, stores, bars and even vacant storefronts are transformed into makeshift art galleries for the walk. The free event has long been billed as a way to spur economic development as well as highlight local art.
Perhaps the most visible example of the financial impact of the art walk can be seen with the use of vacant storefronts as "pop-up" galleries. In several instances, these storefronts have found permanent tenants in the wake of the event, Wilczak said.
Five such galleries will be on the art walk this year, including the storefront that formerly operated as The Beverly Hills Gallery at 2133 W. 95th St. This empty art store will be used Saturday to showcase work from students, alumni and faculty at Saint Xavier University in Mount Greenwood as well as a teen art show and an interactive art project.
The art walk is primarily meant to showcase artists living in the 19th Ward. But artists from Bronzeville, Pullman and suburban Blue Island will share the spotlight this year, including artists from Gallery Guichard. These artists specialize in art of the African Diaspora and have their work at the Pelar Gallery at 9937 S. Wood St.
The Beverly Art Walk "is also a way to showcase other South Side artists communities here in Beverly," Wilczak said.
The art walk doubled the amount of music that will be featured on the route this year. Lizzy Benner, a manager of Beverly's Horse Thief Hollow brew pub, coordinated the music, which will include a performance from the Southwest Symphony Orchestra at Morgan Park Academy.
"Music is a wonderful art form," said Wilczak, adding that visual art will remain the focus of the walk and the music is intended to bolster the already festive atmosphere.
She added that four artists studios are among the must-see places on the art walk this year, giving visitors a unique glimpse into the creative spaces and people living in Beverly.
Three trolleys will make stops along three different routes, taking visitors on artistic jaunts through the neighborhood. Some 10,000 people are expected this year — up from 6,000 last year, Wilczak said.
She added that the growing crowds are quickly putting the Beverly Art Walk in the same category as other well-established neighborhood events such as the South Side Irish St. Patrick's Day Parade, the Ridge Run and the Beverly Breast Cancer Walk.
"The more we have [the art walk], the larger the audience builds," she said.
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