Peanut Gallery Profile

By Margot Brody

In June of 2010, Peanut Gallery opened with its first exhibition, a cat-themed group show titled “Pussy Galore,” in a shared studio space in Wicker Park’s Flat Iron Arts Building on Milwaukee Avenue. The event set the bar for the off-beat, playful, and at times bizarre exhibition style that— according to artists and co-directors of the space Charlie Megna, Kelly Reaves, Kate Arford, and Brandon Howe— differentiated the gallery from many others in Chicago at the time.

Part of the idea behind opening [the gallery] is to have something more approachable and less pretentious, a place where people can have fun and relax,” said Reaves in “Art in a Nutshell,” published in the Columbia Chronicle in October of 2010.

Twelve months and many noise complaints after the Peanut Gallery’s quirky debut, Megna, Reaves, Arford, and Howe decided to move the gallery to a corner storefront at 1000 N. California in Humbolt Park. The larger, more independently situated space in what they see as a fittingly “laid-back” neighborhood, affords the gallery an easier point of access for the interested public, according to Reaves and Megna. Conveniently positioned on a corner lot just off the sidewalk on the ground floor, the entrance is surrounded by large glass windows that regularly instigate curious passers-by to pop into the gallery to see what is happening.

Reaves describes the artwork they choose to show as existing “a little more on the craft end than the conceptual end,” which goes hand-in-hand with the gallery’s “DIY” subculture-influenced attitude. Though they do consider themselves informed when it comes to the Chicago art scene, the artists that run Peanut Gallery prefer to remain on the periphery, even if it means being perceived as something of a joke by those within the art elite. “We are like the bratty punk rock kids that don’t get taken that seriously,” said Megna, “but we are still going to poke fun at the art world as much as possible.”

In addition to exhibiting bimonthly solo or group exhibitions of local and emerging artists, Megna, Reaves, Arford, and Howe want their studio space to function as a co-operative site for open-minded creative production and wide-ranging intellectual dialogue. The operative ideology behind the space is one that emphasizes accessibility over exclusivity, which why have free “Art Nights” for people to hang out, make art, play music, and make use of the space in other creative ways.  In addition to online exhibition proposals, Peanut Gallery accepts lecture proposals for unusual or nonmainstream topics.

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