WEST CHICAGO – After months of planning and discussion, West Chicago’s Gallery 200 officially joined local nonprofit People Made Visible on Jan. 1.
Since its founding in 2005, the art gallery had been supported by the city of West Chicago as an initiative of the West Chicago Cultural Arts Commission. However, being part of the city limited the gallery’s ability to expand.
As a division of People Made Visible, possibilities for grants and other fundraising options increase, since the nonprofit doesn’t face the restrictions of a municipality.
This will help Gallery 200 pursue potential projects, including the renovation of the now-vacant upper two floors of the building where the gallery is located.
“We think it’s really exciting, and we think it’s a good way to pool together all the artistic resources in town,” said Sara Phalen, president of People Made Visible’s Board of Directors.
Serious discussions surrounding a possible merger of Gallery 200 and People Made Visible began last spring.
It made sense to merge the gallery with the nonprofit because of the work People Made Visible does and its own connections in the art world, Phalen said. The organization, which focuses on community engagement through art, had already taken over operating the gallery’s Local Music Night in summer 2012.
“People Made Visible is a nonprofit and does cultural projects. We thought rather than becoming separate, we’d merge,” said Heide Morris, volunteer administrator of Gallery 200.
A contract to make the gallery part of the nonprofit was approved by the West Chicago City Council last fall and signed by the parties involved.
The city of West Chicago continues to own the building, with People Made Visible serving as a tenant.
Gallery 200 is located in the historic Ripley Hotel, 200 Main St.
The gallery is on the first floor of the building and Gallery Theater is located in the basement, where other performances are held as well, including Local Music Night.
The two upper floors are currently inaccessible and require an elevator and fire escape. However, they could be renovated to function as gallery space or house a historical exhibit or a replicated room from the building’s days as a hotel.
“We want to make this building something that can hold more cultural events,” Morris said.
Operations will continue as usual at the gallery. Those involved want to observe the transition before considering any major changes, she said.
“There are some long-term goals, but we have to see how things go year-to-year,” Morris said.
For now, the Gallery 200 webpage is in the process of being moved from the city website to People Made Visible’s website. The relocation is expected to be completed by the gallery’s February show, Phalen said.
By the end of this year, she anticipates People Made Visible will begin looking more seriously at plans to expand the gallery.