On 35th Street, west of the White Sox stadium and east of Bridgeport’s industrial wasteland, lies a four-story, 80,000 sq. ft. brick building housing studios, five gallery spaces, a café and a museum shop. Founded in 2003 by the Zhou Brothers, a pair of eccentric and self-proclaimed prodigious artists that settled in Chicago two decades ago, Zhou B Art Center has consistently interesting openings and has carved a niche for itself within the arts and culture scene in Bridgeport, and Chicago in general.
Currently, the two galleries associated with Zhou B are hosting two shows: Sexier (ends April 10th) and Afro-Futurism: Impossible View (ends April 25th). A solo show featuring the work of Hebru Brantley, a Bronzeville-based artist, Afro-Futurism is a Boondocks-like exploration of “urban characters.” Aside from these two galleries, there is the artist-owned 33 Collective Gallery and Chicago Art Matrix Gallery both of which show contemporary artists. The fifth gallery, 4Art Inc. Gallery is more of a framing-studio-meets-graphic-arts-meets-classroom.
4Art Inc. moved from Pilsen in 2009 to its current location, a sign of, according to some, the growing flight from East Pilsen’s Chicago Arts District (or “Podville,” after the developer, John Podmajersky) into the bourgeoning Bridgeport Art District (B.A.D.). B.A.D. is a loose configuration of galleries in the area that hosts third Friday events in the tradition of Podville’s second Fridays and West Loop’s first Fridays.
The Bridgeport Art District begs the question: will there be a significant art district on the South Side that’s successful and survives? Podville has a distinctly bohemian feel, with its alleyway gardens and storefront studios, yet many of those windows remain dark. Is the “art center,” in the fashion of Zhou B, the Bridgeport Art Center, and the Co-Prosperity Sphere, the new way to go? And is “Podville” really doomed, or has it merely reached its capacity, not necessarily in space, but in community support?
Zhou B typifies the new model of arts community in Bridgeport, replete with studio, education, and exhibition space that is large enough to foster an interior community. These arts centers take the approach that initially made art districts successful, the draw of multiple venues, and house them all under one roof, with a café.
-Joel Kuennen, ArtSlant Staff Writer