posted by Caroline Picard

I came accross this article by William Dolan, a longstanding painter in Chicago. His response struck me as especially reasoned and level-headed. While he doesn’t make any claims as to how apartment galleries ought to be legal, he addresses why they would be complicated to try and manage and happen to fall through beurocratic cracks. That said, I find all of this continues to raise the question in my mind: should apartment galleries be legalized? What becomes of their idiosyncratic nature were the city to provide specific legal channels through which they could establish themselves? On the one hand providing such a channel would make those exhibition sites more accessible to the public, thereby opening up what can very easily seem like an insular community of artmakers. On the other, those channels would very quickly (I suspect) clean up and systematize what has traditionally remained outside categorical margin. While I don’t know where to come down on the question, and while I doubt there is enough incentive for the city to make sufficient changes, every so often I entertain the possibility that they would and then try to think through what that would mean.

In any case, and more to the point here is a portion of the article from nerotic art. You can read the whole thing by going here.

Some Thoughts on Apartment Galleries by William Dolan


A few weeks ago, Chicago Art Magazine ran an article asking the question, “Are apartment galleries illegal?” The article summarized the troubles The Green Lantern apartment gallery ran into, and documented the issues the City of Chicago has with mixing businesses with residences. A follow-up article dove a little deeper into licensing issues and indicated the City is unfamiliar with the term “apartment gallery.”

The commentators, at the end of the post, voiced disappointment and frustration. One even accused the City of malevolence toward artists and musicians. Since I have some thoughts on the topic, I was going to chime in, but felt I didn’t want to get into a flame war. I’d rather do that here.

While it can be disheartening that the rules can make it difficult or even impossible to legally operate an apartment gallery, it certainly was not born out of some sort of plot to hurt anybody. Instead, the laws governing businesses have two main objectives. One is to protect nearby residents from disruptive activities and the other is safety.

As for combining business activities and residential living, there are many problems that can happen here. Certainly, a steady flow of customers in and out of a business can get on neighbor’s nerves. The increase in vehicle traffic and parking puts a strain on a residential area. In the case of apartment galleries, the openings which tend to be big parties, certainly disturb the peace.

posted by Caroline Picard

From Newcity’s 411 section:

You can read the whole piece by going here.

It’s a gallery! It’s a performance space! It’s a bookstore! It’s a café! The revived Green Lantern Gallery, temporarily housed at Chicago and Maplewood in Ukrainian Village, permanent location TBD, is aiming to be Chicago’s answer to Gertrude Stein’s living room. It’s an expanded vision of the original Green Lantern Gallery, which director Caroline Picard once ran out of her apartment. When the city shut it down due to an ordinance against such ventures, it left Picard with a choice: go big or go home (no pun intended). She’s going big. The new dream is a joint collaboration with featherproof books, another independent press interested in books that cross the boundaries between visual art and literature. “It’s like a high-school mega crush,” featherproof’s Zach Dodson says of the relationship between the presses. Picard recounts their fateful meeting at the NEXT art fair as a “marathon… of gossip and story-swapping and big-bang idea speculation.”

posted by caroline picard

With the closing of 65 Grand, more publicity shines on the issue of apartment galleries and their relationship with the city. What I found especially interesting about the article that went up in Chicago Art Magazine were the comments–especially Kathryn Born’s remark about liability issues and how those complicate the deliciousness of “being under the radar” and then too, a Kelly Thompson who remarked on not being able to find apartment galleries on a recent visit to the city. I feel like there are tons of apartment galleries still, but they may not be well publicized…in some sense they can’t be, right?

in any case, here is some of the article. you can read the whole bit by going here.

Marina City Plan with Apartment Layout

All Apartment Galleries Are Illegal?

By Kathryn Born on May 13, 2010 in Chicago Art News, Featured

UPDATE: We’re getting some new information. The city is now saying that the term “apartment gallery was confusing and unknown to the department of business affairs. There may be a $250 license that can give you a 50/50 workspace.  Please check back for updates.

Mari Espinosa

About a year ago, a Chicago city official walked into Green Lantern Gallery to check a license for the sandwich board advertisement outside.  When he found out the gallery had no license, Caroline Picard, the owner, was given a two tickets, one for the sandwich board and one for not having a business license.

Why wouldn’t a gallery owner have a business license?

Because the Green Lantern Gallery was also Picard’s home.  She estimated that of the 1200 square-foot apartment, about 50 percent was gallery space and the other 50 percent was living space.  Picard said the gallery had 501c3, or non-profit, status and she did know she needed anything further.

“There are some rules about the number of [people] that come, where the exits are,” she said “and based on those regulations, pretty much every apartment gallery is illegal.”  She noted that a business license is not meant for apartment galleries, or at least not made with them in mind.  Picard added that she was told she needed a live/work license but did not qualify because of the zone her apartment is in.

On a call to the Department of Business affairs, a representative said that the only option for an artist to work from home is a Home Occupation License.

The City of Chicago’s Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Web site, a list rules states what business owners can and can’t do with a Home Occupation license.  One states that “No more than 2 clients may visit your home at one time and no more than 10 clients within any 24 hr period.”

Another rule states that no more than 15 percent of the apartment space used as a business in a multiple dwelling building.

City Be Damned!

May 12, 2010

posted by Caroline Picard

I came across this article about beloved apartment gallery 65Grand. I think it’s an absolute travesty that the city would be shutting that place down–it’s amazing, unique, intimate, and over the last several years has shown consistently intriguing exhibits. Hang it all-

Here is an excerpt. You can read the article in its entirety by going here.

Art Break: City Evicts Gallery from Apartment

An exhibition opening at 65Grand

Bill Gross has been given thirty days to cease and desist gallery operations in his apartment, on the 1300 block of West Grand Avenue. Named 65Grand after the bus that passes below his third story window, the apartment gallery has operated without intervention from the city since October, 2005, until this recent April, when two representatives from the Department of Business Affairs and Licensing visited for a peaceful shakedown. The current show, a solo exhibition by artist David Ingenthron, will be the gallery’s last at this location.

Gross, himself an artist, started the informal gallery in his living room and kitchen as way to engage friends and peers in a self-made art community. Soon after, the gallery openings were always crowded, and the shows received attention from critics (with three coveted reviews in Artforum) and collectors, and therein lay the problem. Gross was selling art without a business license, and he could not obtain one in his present location. The restaurant on the first floor is zoned to conduct business, but the apartments above are not.

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.