Saturday, October 11, 2008

Sears: Then, Now, and Forever

Here it is,
just off the highway
that takes me into the city every week
(though I've never visited it before)

The Largest Mercantile Plant in the World

(at least it was back in 1905 when it was built)
the former home of

The Sears, Roebuck and Co.

and the current home
of dozens of businesses,
offices, schools,
community organizations,

The Murphy Hill Gallery

Run by that indefatigable entrepreneur,

Ralph Murphy

He's retired from Cosmetics
and Chicago politics,
and now just focuses
on Accounting, Financial Planning,
Wedding Photography,
teaching Photography,
and running his art gallery
which spans the entire 40,000 square feet
of the third floor
of the
Sears Administrative Building

(that's him above,
standing in the Sears board room
beside the 300 square foot
formica phony-wood-grain table.
How typically Sears!)

Here's the facility's beautiful park
still meticulously groomed
by the new owners
(to rent for wedding receptions)

Here's the original "Sears Tower"
(later replaced by the extremely tall
building in downtown Chicago)

And here's the Murphy Hill Gallery
back in 1906
when the same space was used
to process catalog orders
from Middle America.

So what can you do in 40,000 square feet ?

One corner is taken
by an historical display
for North Lawndale,
the westside Chicago neighborhood
that was a center of Jewish and then
African American culture.

Golda Meir grew up in North Lawndale ?

I suppose so.

Alice L. Alexander "Stars of Africa"

You might call this space
a kind of street art fair
except that the artists seem
a bit more dedicated to their personal visions
than they are to selling
to casual passers-by

Gwen McGee Boyd
"At the end of the Day"

Jesse Kellman

And since the shows can run for months instead of days,
the artists, like this one, don't need to be local.
(this California painter found the gallery on the internet)

Or -- in this case,
the artist, Marc Rubin moved
his own gallery
from another location
in northside Chicago.

The endless walls
offer a good opportunity
for showing large scale paintings,
like those of
Jennifer Scott
with this series
on the aftermath
of Hurricane Katrina

Large paintings look good here,
there's nothing else
to compete for attention

is this an art gallery ?
a street fair ?
an historical museum?

some kind of
community happening ?

I don't think Ralph is selecting artists
so much
as the universe
is selecting them for him,
and he is just enabling
it all to happen.


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