Spaces: Werkspace

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Werkspace, a gallery and community art space that recently opened in Chicago’s West Ukrainian Village neighborhood, serves up an exciting, new gathering place for local print and book artists as well as those interested in learning. Local artist, Jen Thomas, began renting the live/work space a few months ago with plans to turn it into a multifunctional place to create and showcase paper arts as well as other media. Thomas comes from a multidisciplinary background, earning her B.F.A. in Communication Arts from Virginia Commonwealth University; studying printmaking at Plymouth University, Exeter, England; and completing her M.F.A. in Interdisciplinary Book & Paper Arts at Columbia College Chicago. She currently teaches illustration and graphic design at the American Academy of Art, in addition to bookbinding workshops at Evanston Print & Paper, Columbia College Chicago, and Lillstreet Art Center. Thomas’s diverse background and skills set have certainly influenced the shape of her eclectic new space.

Instantly inviting, Werkspace’s charming, exposed brick walls will showcase monthly exhibitions ranging from traditional print and drawing work to artists’ books, sculpture, and media, as well as performances and literary readings. The space will also be home to a number of affordable workshops including pop-up art, artists’ books, printmaking (drypoint, relief, monoprinting), calligraphy, watercolor painting, visual poetry, and life/anatomical drawing. Thomas has a number of accomplished artists already lined up to begin developing classes for beginners to more experienced artists. This past weekend, local pop-up engineer, Shawn Sheehy, taught Pop-Up Valentine, Werkspace’s first workshop. He is also scheduled to teach a longer 4-week Pop-Up 101 class that runs Wednesday evenings from March 11 to April 11. And in May, the space will host an art auction to benefit Project Rescue Chicago.

Werkspace officially opened this past Friday, February 3, 2012 with an exhibition of two series of Thomas’s works on paper, Nullipara and Animal Dialogues. Images of corsets, pregnancy tests, and a blowfish asking, “Does this make me look fat?” were accompanied by wine bottles being tossed in the air by the outgoing flair bartender. This juxtaposition of the serious with the silly, both within the art itself as well as within the gallery, encouraged a pleasant mixture of laughter and quiet contemplation regarding women’s roles and relationships to others. Throughout the evening, the art space was filled with a diverse group of artists and art lovers eager to welcome Thomas and her new space to the community. Thomas is thrilled. She has not even been open to the public for one week yet and is already looking to the future. Hiring interns is in the works as well as beginning a Kickstarter campaign for expansion ideas. The possibilities are endless. This new spot on the Chicago art scene should not be missed.

For more information regarding exhibitions, workshops, classes, or how to get involved contact Jen Thomas and visit the Werkspace website or werkspacechicago.tumblr.com. Werkspace is located at 2556 W. Chicago Avenue, 1E.

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