Making a living in the art world is, to put it mildly, challenging. While art is necessary it is also subjective. Finding an audience that resonates with what you’re creating, and a large enough audience to actually make it a career, requires dedication, discipline, creativity in marketing as well as in the actual works created, and not a little bit of luck.
Lindsey Meyers, a mixed media artist and photographer, knows this first hand. Enter her stab at making the art world a friendlier place, Beauty & Brawn Art Gallery & Think Space. It’s more than just your typical gallery with Friday night openings that feature piped classical music, free wine and cheese, and hushed conversations. It’s a school, a gathering place, a community, and a space where people can celebrate art of all forms, and the openings are anything but hushed.
Beauty & Brawn began as a way for Lindsey to express her love of the arts while supporting her and her two children. As a newly single parent she thought “I am not putting on pantyhose. I’m not working in an office. I will not fetch coffee.”
“I have one life,” she said, “so I was going to try this. Art is not a hobby. Art is a way of life. If I’m trying to promote art as a viable profession for other people I need to believe in it myself.”
She’d always wanted to create a collective space where artists of all mediums could gather, a “hippied-out place”, envisioned on about eight acres of land. Beauty & Brawn is a smaller, urban version of that idea. After her divorce she realized that it could be a viable business and would allow her to live creatively while raising her kids. So, she put her whole life on the line. She wrote a business plan and got a small loan. She found a space and gutted it with her bare hands. “I would drive by the space and it was horrible, and it was untenable.” But she could see what it would become.
What it’s become is a multi-functional space that celebrates art and community. In addition to the art and their accompanying openings, there are classes for children. Kids can learn piano, guitar, dance, and visual arts. The space also hosts events that can feature everything from spoken word to custom birthday parties. The openings themselves are parties, and unlike at most galleries, kids are welcome. “Most galleries don’t want kids in there, and museums aren’t as tangible,” she said. “You’re not allowed to interact with the art and with the artists.”
It’s more than just being a mom that prompts her kid-friendly policies. It’s also being part of the larger community. “I live in Logan Square, and there’s nothing for these kids to do. I really want this to be a mentoring situation, where kids aren’t just taking classes but it’s a hub and a safe place to exchange ideas.”
Supporting the neighborhood and the city is important to Lindsey. The artists featured at Beauty & Brawn are and have been, with the exception of two or three from Milwaukee, local. “It would take me twenty years to find all the good art in Chicago,” she said. “It’s a hotbed of awesomeness.”
She hasn’t had to search for artists to feature and at this point they’ve got shows booked through June. She doesn’t choose artists based on their resumes. It’s her own emotional reaction to the work.
“Being an artist is scary, and people don’t understand that,” she said. “Whether you’re spoken word, or a writer, or a dancer, that is a whole different line of work than answering phones at a computer for a shoe company online. For me just because somebody has more schooling or has already been seen is irrelevant.”
Of course, all of this hasn’t been easy. “It’s hard as hell,” she said. “It’s exhausting.”
“I just hope that for me as a business owner and as a parent and a single parent and a woman I can set an example. I won’t go back to a way that won’t fit the confines of my life, to a 9 to 5 existence, that’s not who I am. The teaching and the creating and the community and the commingling, it’s hard, because socially it’s very demanding, but hopefully you command respect at a certain point that you’re really putting something valuable out there.
“There’s no small part of this. I don’t see how there could be.”
Beauty & Brawn Art Gallery & Think Space is located at 3501 W. Fullerton Ave. For more information on exhibits, classes, events, hosting parties, and more, visit beautyandbrawngallery.com or call 773-772-9808.