Nontraditional galleries like Esmé, Alma Art and Interiors, and Epiphany Center for the Arts are shaking up Chicago’s dedicated art scene.
In August 2021, Chef Jenner Tomaska and Katrina Bravo opened the much-acclaimed restaurant Esmé and its cocktail-focused counterpart, Bar Esmé, in Lincoln Park, Illinois. The couple knew from the beginning that they wanted to engage with artisans, so Bravo proposed treating the walls as a sort of gallery, with all the works for sale and the profits going directly to the artist. Tomaska, who was already working with ceramicists on the restaurant’s serving pieces, enthusiastically agreed that the art—like the menu—should change seasonally. Since its inception, the restaurant has featured local artists like Amanda Rivera and Paul Octavious, with Amanda Love’s book spine-inspired pieces on display through January. “We were looking for community,” Bravo says. “It makes us happy that someone can eat a meal in essentially an art gallery and maybe buy something beautiful for their home.”
In a brilliant partnership, Gosia Korsakowski of Architectural Anarchy and Kimberly Oliva of Oliva Gallery have combined forces to create Alma Art and Interiors. Located in a soaring loft space in west Bridgeport, Illinois, this new venture presents large-scale exhibitions that place sculptures and wall art into vignettes with furnishings and accessories. “We show art in a way that people aren’t afraid to come and talk about the pieces,” Korsakowski says. “We set it up like it’s a collector’s home and mix artists together.” The duo’s background makes perfect sense for this venture—Korsakowski specializes in setting up vignettes for designers at trade shows while Oliva runs her own art gallery. After two successful exhibits, the duo is presenting an even more ambitious show this season that not only includes the trademark vignettes and art but will also have special programming, including a performance piece by dancer Irene Hsiao on November 18 and 20.
After seeing the historic spot where they were married sit empty for years, David Chase and Kimberly Rachal decided to buy the Church of the Epiphany and convert it into a multiuse music and event space. Revitalized as the Epiphany Center for the Arts, the 42,000-square-foot West Loop campus offers a multitude of spaces in which to view art. “It’s that sense of discovery that makes Epiphany so cool,” says Aaron Baker, director of art and programming. “Our exhibitions have a dedicated following, but often they are enjoyed by people visiting Epiphany for a concert or private event who see the art as they walk by.”