“Peanut Gallery is full of sex, drugs and rock and roll—doused in Old Style and stuck in a bright white cube. With a scorpion.” Co-founder of Peanut Gallery and SAIC Alum Kelly Reaves offered this description to F Newsmagazine’s Mia DiMeo in 2011 when the gallery was housed in an artist studio in Wicker Park’s Flat Iron Arts Building. The gallery recently moved to a more accessible storefront in Humboldt Park. Additionally, it was named Best New Gallery of the Future by New City in December of 2011. With the publicity and new location the gallery is busier than ever and working to adapt to the needs of its new community.
In addition to the new location and media attention the Peanut Gallery has gained two new co-directors Katie Arford and Brandon Howe joining Reaves and co-founder Charlie Megna. The four gallery directors are working to meet the desires of Humboldt Park neighborhood residents by responding to requests for programming including a movie night and, hopefully soon, art classes.
Reave’s sat down with F Newsmagazine to discuss the challenges of balancing professionalism with a punk ethos.
Michelle Weidman: Why did you choose the Humboldt park location?
Kelly Reaves: Last summer when we started looking for a space this location was called Nudge Gallery and it was a toy store and more of a commercial gallery. We were looking at other storefronts in the area and called up the girl running Nudge and asked her for advice. We weren’t having any luck and all of the other storefronts were awful, with either wood paneling or carpet, we would have had to do so much work. In the mean time Nudge left and we just sort of capitalized on that. But if I could have a gallery anywhere in the city I would have it right here. This is exactly where we want it to be.
MW: How is the space changing the way you do your programming?
KR: Because of the storefront we are more public. People see us in here working so we have a lot of walk-in traffic. I anticipated that but I didn’t anticipate how much. We’ve been molding what we are doing to meet our neighbor’s needs and requests. Tuesday night drawing night used to be three or four people [in the previous location] but now sometimes there will be about twenty people and it is really cool, strangers walking in and introducing themselves to each other and bringing art supplies. …[Now] people want to have bands here and we are trying to figure out how to negotiate that.
MW: How would that change things?
KR: I don’t want it to become a party space. It has been an ongoing challenge trying to maintain a certain level of professionalism — just so we won’t get kicked out really. So we don’t piss off the neighbors and obviously I wouldn’t want any of the work to get damaged either…that has been the most difficult part — just balancing the identity. Trying to let people know that we are serious and we know how to run a gallery but we don’t want to be stuffy. … It would suck to get shut down or sued over something stupid. We’re not trying to get rich; we’re just trying to show people’s work.
MW: Just out of curiosity, what happened to the scorpion mentioned in the previous article on F Newsmagazine.com?
KR: It was really cold in the studio so we think she either died of old age or she got too cold. We are talking about getting another one, Peanut 2. She didn’t do much but she was cool looking. She is in the basement.
MW: She is in the basement currently?
KR: Yeah, she doesn’t seem to be decomposing at all.
Originally published on February 20, 2012 at FNewsmagazine.com. Direct URL: http://fnewsmagazine.com/2012/02/peanut-gallery-developing-a-punk-professionalism/.