LOGAN SQUARE — After five years of calling 2381 N. Milwaukee Ave. home, the neighborhood's premier street art gallery, Galerie F, packed up and moved into a larger location just a block away last month.
According to owner Billy Craven, the gallery — perhaps best known for the colorful murals covering the Megamall — had outgrown its former space, which is situated on a stretch of Milwaukee Avenue that has become a booming bar district in recent years.
Though Craven said more space was the primary reason for the move, he said a deteriorating relationship with his former landlord, who raised the rent "dramatically," made the decision to move a much easier one. He declined to say how much the rent would have increased.
"It was increasing so dramatically and I was getting nothing out of it," Craven said. "I outgrew my space. It's like having kids. You can't live in a one-bedroom studio for your entire life."
Still, Craven said even if his landlord hadn't raised the rent, he was ready to move on. The former location only had one small bathroom, which made things difficult during art shows when 500 people would show up, he said.
The new gallery, 2415 N. Milwaukee Ave., offers about double the amount of space as the previous location thanks to a larger back area for prints, paintings and other work and a basement, which functions as both a place for customers to sit, listen to cassette tapes and play chess, as well as an exhibition room.
Now Craven is considering staying open seven days a week, rather than six, to accommodate those customers who like to pop in and look around at random. He said he hopes to implement the change sometime this spring or summer.
A view of the new space when you walk in. [All photos DNAinfo/Mina Bloom]
"Chicago's full of working class people and we all have different schedules. We're not all 9-to-5, working in a cubicle. We're off Mondays or we work morning shifts," he said.
Craven added that staying open on Mondays, which has always been the gallery's office day, would be a natural extension of what makes Galerie F so unique.
The back area is much larger than that of the previous location.
"I believe that's one of the reasons we've become so popular is because we actually care about our community, with being welcoming and allowing people to come in and offer art you can engage with," he said.
In the new space, fans can expect the same — and more — of the art shows and colorful, graphic gig posters that Galerie F has become known for. The artist community is working on a handful of new projects, including a new mural at a well-known yet undisclosed location.
A show called "Urbs in Horto," which celebrates the 180th anniversary of Chicago becoming established, kicks off Friday at 6 p.m. The show features the work of 24 local artists, including Andrew Ghrist, Devin Owsley-Aquilia and Gabe Hoare.
The downstairs gallery doubles as a place for people to sit down, play chess and listen to records or cassettes.
Craven said while he's not sure what will take over the gallery's former space, he has reason to believe it could be a bar or similar establishment.
The building's landlord, John Argianas, couldn't be immediately reached for comment Monday afternoon.
"He wants to be able to get more money out of it. That's what I believe in conversations I've gleaned from other people. He sees what's going on around him and sees what those properties are worth and that's what he would like to do," Craven said, referring to the many bars that have popped up along Milwaukee Avenue.