Regarding a Business License Part II

March 6, 2009

posted and written by Caroline Picard


What I find most interesting about all of this is that, according to the folks down at City Hall, any apartment gallery is fundamentally illegal, as a business. That is, one would need a live/work license. To be elligible for a live/work license, however, the business can only take up about 10% of your whole apartment, or (if your living space is giant) no more than 300 square feet. In addition you can only have up to 15 visitors a week. There are other issues too, but those two seemed of particular import.

Having said that, the city has no jurisdiction over anybody’s private parties. That means that if some people invite some people over and there happens to be art on the wall, it’s nobody’s business.

While it’s easy to get bogged down in the seemingly inane and arbitrary rules, I’m more interested in why it might be in the a civic body’s interest to keep the Gallery/Exhibition Space separate from the Domestic Home. I still have to think more about it, but I wonder if they are, in some sense, diametrically opposed on some theoretical level. Obviously, they are very much entwined in our city, but legitimacy is not being encouraged. In fact, the city (who benefits from a cultural tradition of DIY artspace/community just as much as the DIY artspace/community benefits from the attention the city affords such projects) seems instead to be creating division.

The argument for legitimacy, or public events, is that such events encourage people who are not in the immediate community, (individuals who may spend most of their lives consuming popular culture via clear channel, mall shopping, news stations etc.,) have a chance (albeit slim) of encountering and participating in what would otherwise be a very insular cultural exchange between artists.


People are always talking about how contemporary art feels inaccessible or cryptic to the non-artist. One way–perhaps the only way that would work–to bridge that gap is to invite those non-artists into the community and to such an extent that they could have a dialogue with the artist.


The Green Lantern cannot stay open as it is. The fines are just too steep.



2 Responses to “Regarding a Business License Part II”

  1. Lauren Weinberg Says:

    Caroline, have you tried asking the 1st Ward alderman, Manny Flores, for help? I’ve never met him, but he at least seems vaguely aware that there are these things called “galleries” in Chicago.

  2. urbesque Says:

    Yes, actually – and he was a great help. I was actually talking to his chief of staff primarily, and that led me to have more conversations with other higher-ups at city hall. nevertheless there seemed no way to get around this exactly, save close the space and relocate OR close the space and appeal to my landlord to change the zoning from a residential apartment to a commercial space (this is not in his best interest, nor exactly mine…)

    it’s a good question though. and like i said, they were very helpful….

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