The power of phantom galleries

Article taken from LaSalle News Tribune, September 15, 2019

Local artwork helps draw interest to empty buildings

A sun-swept landscape. An intricate portrait. A for sale sign?

It’s not an empty window in the building at 112 S. Park St. in Streator, even though it’s an empty building for the moment. But based on the interest Realtor Deanne Carlson is receiving in the property it may not be empty much longer, and she credits the artwork as a big draw.

“Now we’re getting an abundance of interest,” Carlson said. “We understood that decorated buildings and windows help sell a commercial property and bring it alive.”

But this isn’t just the stock image artwork one finds in hotel chains. The artwork on display is showcasing local talents through the NCI ARTworks art loan program.

And this is a program that goes back to the organization’s roots for what they term as “phantom galleries” — temporary galleries in nontraditional settings.

“ARTworks got its start by putting art in empty buildings,” said executive director Chris Coughlin.

She said art was adorned in windows of several downtown La Salle properties before they were renovated for new businesses.

“These places have been sold or rented and I’d like to think we’ve had some small part of that,” Coughlin said. “We do believe in the power of phantom galleries.”

Coughlin said the program has evolved over the years and become a little more official on how the organization loans pieces out to the community. Coughlin said photo canvases were the first to go out, which are reprints of photography taken by local talents such as Paula Guttilla, who now helps administrate the program. Coughlin said the collection is now up to 28 pieces, some of which can be found this year in Peru Elementary.

“It’s a growing program,” she said. “It’s getting some attention.”

And now NCI ARTworks is looking to obtain prints of masterworks from the Art Institute of Chicago, which Coughlin said were recently made available on the public domain.