You know how salad bars have all those amazing-looking vegetables and legumes and sprouty green frisee that looks like grass? And how you pile your recycled cardboard container high with all the choice fixings, but then worry it’ll weigh too much and end up costing you $13? Personally, I steer clear of the cherry tomatoes; they’re heavy and aren’t worth it. I go easy on the broccoli too, for the same reason. Mostly, my salad consists of shredded carrots, a tiny broccoli tree, and six or seven peas, all of which are topped conservatively upon a generous portion of spinach and arugula.
Unlike a salad bar that is full of variety but sends you into panic at the register, Bridgeport Art Center’s 3rd Friday Open Studios offer visitors a chance to meet a tantalizing array of artists, stacking art lover’s figurative plates with intriguing productions.
Bridgeport Art Center, formerly the Spiegel Catalog warehouse, is a huge, five-story building dedicated to the arts. Established in 2001, it strives to be a resource for Chicago artists by offering reasonably-priced studio spaces that can be rented month-to month.
It’s not difficult to see why artists are drawn here. Raw, industrial space is juxtaposed alongside intimate, partitioned studios, while copious general work space abounds. Near the fashion designer’s studios, an enormous cutting table serves as a kind of artist’s town square; a central area where designers can work side-by-side, coach one another, and draw inspiration as needed.
One such designer is Ananda Duszynski, an eco-conscious clothing and accessories designer. Under the name Bliss Joy Bull, she creates backpacks, jewelry, and faux-thigh-high leggings using organic dyes and materials.
Bridal designer Javonica Sapp also has a studio here, along with a rack of clutch-your-hand-to-your-heart-gorgeous gowns on display. A graduate of the International Academy of Design and Technology, Sapp launched her line of custom bridal couture in 2010. Her gowns range from vintage to modern, sleek to princess poufy, and often contain signature touches like rhinestone appliques along a waistline or tiers of pleats folded throughout a full skirt.
Perhaps the most impressive part of this warehouse-turned-art house is its expansive ceramic center. Pottery wheels, kilns, and workshop spaces occupy a good chunk of the fifth floor, and clay in all stages of production resides on tall shelves. Resident artist Jay Strommen’s glass and ceramic sculptures hang on the department’s vast brick walls. Classes are offered for beginner, intermediate and advanced students, and through April 12th the exhibit Midwest Clay Stories: Through the Eye of the Vessel will be on display. This interactive series chronicles the rich history of ceramic arts throughout the Midwest, and invites viewers to write their thoughts in journals alongside each piece.
There is no register panic at Bridgeport’s 3rd Friday Open Studios because the event is always free. Wine, the occasional baked good, and light snacks are also freely offered to patrons as they mingle from studio to studio, connect with artists from several disciplines, and nourish themselves with the kind of food that doesn’t come on a plate.