Loop gallery aims to support community despite being looted
Loop North News

(Above) Photo of Elephant Room Gallery, at Wabash Avenue & Balbo Drive, taken the day after it was broken into by looters who pulled out an ATM at right and busted through a wall. (Click on images to view larger versions.)

28-Jun-20 – When Kim Atwood and her husband, James Atwood, owners of Elephant Room Gallery, surveyed the damage, they decided to figure out how they could recover and do more for the community.

The night before, May 30, the ATM attached to the gallery – not part of the gallery – had been ripped out by looters. They were then able to access the small storefront gallery and take artwork from a solo exhibition by Chicago street artist Sentrock, as well as two paintings by other artists. Artwork on another wall was not touched, suggesting it happened very quickly.

Kim Atwood

“We were upset, obviously. It’s artwork. I was upset for the artist. You can’t really replace it,” said Kim Atwood (left), “and all these pieces were bought already.”

The first thing they did was post to social media about the break-in, refund everyone who had bought paintings, and pay Sentrock.

Said Atwood, “I support the protest. I know why they are necessary.”

The Atwoods opened the gallery in 2009 and focus on Chicago-based artists. They have solo and group shows and workshops as well. Atwood explains that “we want the gallery to be warm and inviting [where] people feel comfortable.”

After the break-in and robbery, wanting to do more for the community, the Atwoods decided that 15 percent of profits from sales in June will be donated to Black Lives Matter.

The gallery is also holding a silent auction for painted boards – painted by artists Abraham, Jamiah Calvin, Cujo Dah, TotesFerosh, and Zor Zor Zor – that were on windows of The Blackstone Hotel.

(Right) Cujo Dah uses spray paint to turn a window of The Blackstone Hotel into art.

Elephant Room Gallery

Proceeds of each sale will be split with the artist and a nonprofit of the artist’s choice. Nonprofits include Brave Space Alliance, Southside Community Art Center, Teamwork Englewood, The Simple Good, and Young Chicago Authors. Bidding ends at noon on July 1.

As for the gallery itself, a GoFundMe fundraiser has raised $3,390 as of June 28.

Sentrock, Atwood says, has been “so gracious, so awesome” about the incident, as well as the other two artists. A limited-edition release of a print by Sentrock, slated for the Monday after the incident, went ahead since the prints were in a locked backroom. The gallery’s profits were donated to the Pilsen-based nonprofit, Healthy Hood.

While the gallery hasn’t repaired all of the damage yet, Atwood says, “We are going to recover, we’re going to be okay.”

Cujo Dah

The gallery will reopen its doors on July 24 with a show by Cujo Dah called Quarantine Daydreams.

(Left) Mansa Musa by artist Cujo Dah, a depiction of a sultan of the Mali Empire in West Africa in the Middle Ages.

“So many people were giving and reaching out, it was overwhelming,” said Atwood. “We need to reciprocate this. It felt kind of amazing how the community really is coming together, and still even now I feel like there is a shift.”

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By Elisa Shoenberger | Loop North News | bowlerhatfox@gmail.com

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