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Tuesday saw the launch of three temporary art galleries in vacant Loop storefronts. Now comes the Opportunity Shop, an "ephemeral, experimental space" in Hyde Park. A community art project conceived as an "open invitation to everyone curious about the opportunities inherent in an otherwise vacant urban space for exhibition, performance, viewings, readings, workshops, and conversations," the Op Shop opens tonight at 1613 E. 55th with a reception from 6 to 10 PM. There'll also be a silent auction Sat 12/5 and a closing party Thu 12/31, both from 6 to 10 PM.
Like Pop-Up Art Loop, the initiative responsible for the Loop galleries, the Opportunity Shop takes advantage of the fact that many property owners are having a hard time finding tenants. It's the brainchild of Laura Shaeffer, a local artist who also runs Larch Projects and the Home Gallery (located in her house) with her husband, fellow artist Andrew Nord. Shaeffer has had this project in mind for a couple years, and has been talking about it on and off for about that long with Peter Cassel, an acquaintance of hers who works for MAC Property Management. The timing hadn't worked out until a few weeks ago, when he offered to lease her a 2,500-square-foot space for a dollar until the end of the calendar year. Shaeffer picked up the keys last Friday.
The space is named for the Australian term for a thrift store, and while its focus is on art there'll be a thrift store in the back, run by the United Church of Hyde Park. The church is also paying the insurance, and volunteers will pitch in to keep the place open for regular hours Thu-Sun 11 AM-7 PM through the end of the year. Shaeffer doesn't have any formal funding and has had to pay for stuff like electricity out of pocket, but she's thinking of trying to get grants to make the Op Shop permanent, either in its current location or elsewhere. She emphasizes that this a "very collaborative effort" involving lots of help from friends and her husband.
The Op Shop's inaugural incarnation involves more than two dozen artists, and Shaeffer is still looking for more—particularly installation and performance artists. Exhibitions are "designed to be organic and free flowing, with rolling entries and departures." Schaeffer also plans to let people use the space for events ranging from dance lessons to readings to musical and theatrical performances. Almost anything goes; Shaeffer wants the place to be dynamic. "A lot of the motivation to do this was that I lived in Berlin for 13 years, and artists would take over empty spaces in Berlin left and right, with the permission of the building owners," she says. "They were of temporary nature, and they had so much energy, so much pulse. They weren't fussy, where you can't have a pin drop. We want to have dance parties, we want to have fun in here."
To find out more about displaying art or having an event in the space, or to volunteer your time, e-mail Shaeffer here.