ArtBar encourages a brewski while browsing in Aurora, Batavia – Chicago Tribune

I don’t mind this gallery if you walk around with a drink or two. In fact, it’s encouraged.

ArtBar, a monthly pop-up art gallery at Two Brothers Roundhouse in Aurora and Sidecar Supper Club and Beer Garden Batavia, gives art lovers the chance to sip their favorite drinks while viewing the work of approximately three dozen artists local.

“ArtBar began as a community to promote the local art scene through a free, artist-friendly show,” said Lindsey Roussel, ArtBar Board Member. “So all the money these artists make comes back to them at the end of the night or the next morning when they get their work back,” Roussel said.

“ArtBar doesn’t take any cuts,” she said. “What we wanted to do was an exhibition that was more for the low-tech crowd that might not have a lot of money to push their art into galleries. They therefore have the possibility of doing a show at almost no cost to them.

By “unscrupulous mob,” Roussel refers to the style of art most commonly displayed in pop-ups.

“We accept all art, but we tend to lean more towards the lowbrow, which is more like the gritty, punk-style art scene,” she said. “Bolder lines, bright colors with a lot of artistry. We did a few shows where we had people do pieces on cardboard with spray paint, so very street style, which is super fun and expressive.

Created in November 2012, ArtBar celebrates its 10th anniversary season. In high school at the time, Roussel became involved with the pop-up after hearing about it from one of her teachers.

“I never thought I would do it this long, but the community is so awesome and it’s been really fun over the years,” she said. “So I had the opportunity last year to join the board and earlier this year to launch my own version, which is ArtBar Batavia.”

Roussel, who lives in Batavia, launched the ArtBar at Sidecar Supper Club on the second Friday of the month to give artists more exposure, as well as a second chance to sell their work.

At Two Brothers Roundhouse in Aurora, pieces typically cost under $500, with most between $50 and $200, she said. “Sometimes the pieces get a bit more expensive if they’re much bigger in terms of size,” she said.

For ArtBar Batavia, it’s a much smaller show, so it has a much smaller maximum size for parts, Roussel said.

“Typically, these pieces are $50 and under, and that’s what usually sells well,” she said. “There will always be something outside of that range, but that’s not the average.”

A print table at each exhibition gives artists the opportunity to also sell prints of their work.

“A lot of artists, that’s where they make their money,” Roussel said. “It’s a cheaper alternative to buying art and more affordable art.”

Each show has a theme. Typically, this is the same theme for Aurora and Batavia popups. However, this month they are different. ArtBar is celebrating its return to Two Brothers Roundhouse’s Tavern on May 6 after using the cafe as a gallery space during the pandemic, so it has an open theme, allowing artists to contribute whatever they want.

“And ArtBar Batavia, it’s Friday the 13th because it’s Friday the 13th, so we’re going to make it a spooky show,” Roussel said.

Monster-themed shows still do really well, she said.

“Because for lowbrows, that’s what makes a lot of money for the lowbrow crowd,” she said.

Typically, ArtBar Aurora typically wraps up in June or July, then takes a two-month summer break before starting its new season. ArtBar Batavia crosses the summer for a full season.

The shows feature a healthy mix of new and established artists, Roussel said. Some are part of the lowbrow scene but have also shown their work in high-end galleries or do murals.

“It’s a really wide range of people, which I think helps make it a very inclusive community because a lot of young people get the opportunity to show with more established artists,” she said. “And for a lot of more established artists, it’s a much more relaxed environment because it’s not as serious.”

ArtBar pop-ups also help build community, as these types of shows “make it a less competitive scene,” she said. “So a lot of artists become friends and they help each other and they do collaborations and it just creates a very healthy artistic community.”

Those interested in showing their work to ArtBar can use the submission page on the ArtBar website or contact them on social media to submit some work.

“Then the board decides whether or not they can come in. If we think they’re not ready yet, we give them a little critique and then usually within the next year or two they’ll try again and will do indoors,” Roussel said.

For those just starting out, it’s a way to have a monthly show, network, and create additional opportunities. Roussel said she learned more about being an artist by regularly showing work at ArtBar, working with artists, and doing other exhibitions than she would in a classroom.

“I think there should definitely be a big push for hands-on experience in the art scene. And I attribute all of my growth as an artist to ArtBar,” she said. “Because the thing cool what ArtBar does is their themed shows, so as an artist it pushes you.

“I’ve never done portraits before, I’ve never done more detailed work, and then as I do ArtBar, I had to match the themes. So I ended up developing a pretty decent following just because my work got better over the years.

ArtBar: the tavern show

When: 7 p.m. on May 6

Or: Two Brothers Roundhouse, 205 N. Broadway St., Aurora

ArtBar Batavia: Friday the 13th

When: 7 p.m. May 13

Or: Sidecar Supper Club & Beer Garden, 12 N. River St., Batavia



Kathy Cichon is a freelance journalist for the Beacon-News.

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