Thursday, December 11, 2008
I'm going to give Colby Luckenbill of Colby Gallery the last word on Pilsen, art and community. In addition to running a gallery of international stature, Colby serves as a community rep on the Cooper Elementary Local School Council. She's been living in Pilsen for five years now.
Of her space, she said, "It's more of a salon-style gallery. It encourages civic activity and brainstorming, networking and inspiration." That was true. I engaged in more conversations with strangers about the art there than anywhere else. And I met a Little Village artist, Carolina I. Reyes, who was showing her own work in the Little Village Art Fest the next day.
Colby has been involved with Pilsen Open Studios since its inception. Although her gallery has shown works from many Latin American and especially Mexican artists, in 2005 she hosted a major retrospective of a German artist. "He was in his 80s and flew over for the show. It's a cultural exchange, showing local artists and artists from around the world. Art helps to connect the heart and the head. We need that in all aspects of life."
Like many of the artists I spoke with, she thought the open studios was a refreshing contrast to the more formalized and highly structured arts scene in East Pilsen, which is dominated by real estate mogul John Podmajersky, who made a conscious decision to rent his buildings to artists years ago in an effort to revitalize the area. While his plan has succeeded, some find the East Pilsen arts scene too controlled and too organized from the top down. "Here on the west side we think of it as one place. It's all Pilsen. It's open. It's artist-run. This has a certain kind of soul."