Structured Art on Berwyn’s 22nd Street

By Jonathan Salamanca

It’s a platform as much as it’s a piece of art, towering 8 feet high, stretching 27 feet long, at a value of about $4,000 and it’s home is 22 – the newest Berwyn art gallery.

Jessica Calek, founder and director of the gallery and art studio, opened the space 11 months ago on Berwyn’s Cermak Road – also known as 22nd Street. Calek and her partner Dan Streeting have held five prior exhibits in their studio space. They say that their most recent—Modular 22—depended on their previous exhibits to become a success.

“We had to wait awhile to meet people in the neighborhood, meet artists— people we could bring into a show like this,” Streeting said.

Modular 22 is a structure made of 360 wooden panels interlocked with one another; each panel is unique to an artist’s black and white design. The structure features over 100 artists, including a dozen from Berwyn. Its name, much like the studio space’s name, derives from the street it’s on.  It stands as­­ Calek‘s most ambitious project yet at the corner of Cermak Road and Kenilworth Avenue.

“I’ve trained as an architect, and Dan’s a graphic designer so I thought it be really interesting to do something that combined his graphic design background with my architectural background in a gallery exhibit, so I designed this structure,” Calek said.

The structure itself is an extension of art from the designs it features on each individual panel.

Calek and Streeting asked the artists to keep the designs in a black and white scheme, but they made a few exceptions. One panel featured is a compressed version of the original panel. Charlie O’Geen and James Haddrill, the artists of this selected piece created a mold of the original panel, broke the original panel in to thin pieces and then compressed the wooden panel-pieces into the mold to give it its back its form. Calek said the structure itself had a simple complexity they wanted to share coherently without color.

The Berwyn Spindle design and on the right above Charlie O’Geen and James Haddrill’s panel.

Calek and Streeting launched a fundraiser in July through Kickstarter to make Modular 22 possible.

“We wanted to do it so that artists didn’t have to pay to participate in this show. We knew it’d be a fairly sizable amount of money to be able to construct this the way we wanted to,” Calek said. In the first three days they raised 25 percent of their $4,000 fundraising goal. By August 2nd they had reached their goal.

Kickstarter is a way for artistic entrepreneurs to raise funds for creative projects: projects in film, technology, photography, fashion, games, and theater. Entrepreneurs present a proposal through Kickstarter’s website where friends and the online public can see their proposed project. They can then pledge to make a donation to the artists and become “backers.”

Kickstarter is unique in that the funds raised are all-or-nothing. If an artist doesn’t meet their set fundraiser goal, then they don’t receive any of the funds and a “backer” isn’t credited or charged for their pledged donation at the end of the artist’s goal period.

“A lot of people seem to think that Kickstarter is some type of magic fundraiser,” Calek said, “But there is a lot of hard work that goes into having a successful Kickstarter campaign and that includes creating a network in place of people willing to support you.”

Maria Lopez, an art student at DePaul University who lives near the studio, said 22 brings a new feel to the area.

22 is located down the street from a Jiffy Lube and gas station, across the street from a sports store,  and directly neighboring an accounting service agency and hair salon.

“Its location seems strange, but it’s close to Morton West High School with young students—and those are the people probably more interested in a place like 22. I like 22 and Modular 22. I hope to see more art there soon,” Lopez said.

Calek is interested in seeing Modular 22 take the road to appear on displays elsewhere.

“I’d love to move this project into a different space and let it take a life of its own,“ Calek said,  “The way the project is designed you can completely change the layout—it can be taken apart and molded into different shapes depending on the space”

Calek and Streeting will be hosting a Modular 22 inspired Drawing Night at 22 at 7 p.m. Nov. 14. Attendees will be able to sketch Modular 22  or various still lifes.  Calek  will provide supplies for $10. Attendees are also welcomed to bring their own supplies, but at a charge of $5. The event is open to the public and all skill levels.

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