Originally the little storefront on Glenwood Avenue next to the el tracks was supposed to be Andy DeLaRosa's studio. But then he started making friends with other artists in the neighborhood, and suddenly he had a gallery. He named it B1e, after a ship's numbering system; before DeLaRosa was an artist, he was an engineer on a Coast Guard boat.
"It took on a life of its own," DeLaRosa says. Soon after he began the gallery, DeLaRosa's landlord offered him the empty lot two doors down—right next to the Lifeline Theatre—in exchange for regular lawn maintenance. More and more things started accumulating at B1e: metal sculptures, murals, graffiti (legal graffiti), an "arts pantry" that gives supplies to struggling artists, and a community book box.
Though DeLaRosa opens the yard only one day a year during the Glenwood Avenue Arts Fest, many of the sculptures are close enough to the fence for passersby to touch. "Art needs to be interactive," he says. "I encourage that."
Some people have even started adding to the sculptures. Others, it's true, have been taking parts away. But some broken-off pieces have found their way back.
"I want to be all guerrilla, but everyone in the neighborhood knows me. They find pieces and bring them to me."