The River North Gallery Tours first started 20 years ago. Yes, 20. In 2001 the Chicago Art Dealers Association thought the regular neighborhood tours would be a great way to make area galleries accessible to the public. The idea was to tour four local spaces that were all in walking distance of one another. By bringing a tour group into a gallery and making interactions between dealers and the uninitiated but curious art visitors more friendly, art buying would be encouraged and developed in the process. CGN interviewed some collectors back in 2013 who got started by attending the tours in the early years.
The tours have long been popular. In recent years, the number of galleries in River North has decreased, but the neighborhood has still been ideal for tours. It’s close to Michigan Ave., as well as main CTA bus and El stops, and the galleries there are still close to one another and offer a range of art, from outsider to encaustic to craft. Some participating galleries today include Carl Hammer, Zg, Vale Craft, Victor Armendariz, and others.
“These gallery tours provide a real personal touch, and we love participating in them,” says Carl Hammer. “It’s a great way to hear one-on-one stories from the dealers and curators, and it’s really one of the coolest art-viewing opportunities out there. It’s a hidden gem. It’s free, and it’s priceless!”
Tours stopped altogether for most of 2020, but gallery owner Dan Addington took up the charge of organizing and leading them again when it was safe to resume in-person events. Now he has a plan to refresh and revive the tours in time for summer.
“Leading these tours has been so much fun, and they are a unique way to experience artists, galleries, and exhibitions in a personal and comfortable way. We’ve met so many art enthusiasts who have become returning participants on the tours, and we look forward to providing this opportunity in the future! What a great way to spend a Saturday morning,” says Addington.
Tours are taking place once a month on Saturdays, leaving from Addington Gallery, 704 N Wells St, at 11am, and visit at least three other galleries. While they won’t take place weekly, they’ll be more anticipated than ever, even in the winter months.
The next tour takes place on Saturday, July 10. Addington asks that visitors please Rsvp by text or phone to 312.664.3406 by 9am the date of the tour in order to give him a heads up for how many people to expect.
According to the owners of Zg Gallery, “These tours have been an exciting way to communicate the importance of River North in the history of the Chicago gallery scene, and they allow people to discover art on a personal level while providing a great venue to ask questions in a comfortable context. People remember this tour experience even years later, and they often return with their friends.”
By Ginny Van Alyea