Jane Calvin: Chicago Cottages

Gallery 210 is pleased present the video”Chicago Cottages” by nationally recognized Chicago photographer Jane Calvin. Her exhibition opens on September 14th. A reception for the artist begins at 5PM.

Bob Calvin writes, “This video features a series of black and white photographic prints taken from the late 1970’s through early 1980’s of Chicago Cottages that were primarily located in the Pilsen neighborhood. Most of these unassuming worker cottages no longer exist, as they were razed in the process of gentrification.

Although the Cottage Style is a simple kind of folk architecture, it is of major significance in the history of the urban Chicago landscape. Industrial growth in the late 19th century was changing Chicago from a city of pioneers and farmers to one of urban dwellers. Between 1880 and 1919 Chicago’s population tripled in size. The railroads, meat-packing plants, and heavy industry provided jobs to a huge influx of immigrants who all needed somewhere to live.

Three factors not generally realized combine to give value to this architectural phenomenon. First of all, the Chicago Cottage is a unique regional form—a kind of folk architecture found only in Chicago. Second it is an important part of Chicago’s visual heritage, its style influencing many of the larger flats that began to be built in the 1880’s here. Finally, the form is tied into major American architectural traditions that surfaced in Chicago in the 1890’s to create the modern skyscraper, such as the balloon frame.

Typically, the façade is composed of a door placed on one side and two windows next to it. The cottages are long and narrow to fit the Chicago building lot, often have a gabled end facing the street, can be 1½ stories, and usually sit on a raised basement.

With dozens of photographs ranging from portraits of traditional cottages to architectural details, to documentary images of how they were transformed into larger buildings, this presentation explores the scope of this architectural form and its strong ties to the Pilsen area.”

The artist writes. “I actually made the photographs that comprise this body of work in the 1970’s. I dragged my rented 4×5 view camera into the Pilsen area, inspired by a beloved professor at the School of the Art Institute, Harold Allen, who lived in the area and was himself an architectural photographer. He understood the uniqueness of this architecture, and certainly was familiar with the area. It was summer and hot and the children of the area were fascinated by what I was doing. So each time I emerged from beneath the black cloth covering the camera, I was surrounded by a ‘mob’ of small, curious kids. I enjoyed the activity, and the lively quality of the neighborhood, which no longer exists thanks to ruthless gentrification.

I eventually came to understand the uniqueness of the Cottage architecture to Chicago and a few other places in world, maybe.

I went on in my photographic career to other work. But these photographs were discovered in a box in one of my files by an assistant. Since black and white view camera (4×5”) photographs are so compelling visually, I was persuaded to pursue the project for which I am glad.”

This exhibition is made possible by the Missouri Arts Council, the Center for the Humanities, and the College of Arts and Sciences at UMSL.

Public parking for Gallery 210 is available at the South Millennium Parking Garage on the east side of East Drive on the UM-St. Louis Campus. Handicapped parking is available behind Gallery 210.

Gallery 210 is on the University of Missouri-St. Louis at 44 Arnold Grobman Drive between the North UM-St. Louis Metro Station and the Touhill Performing Arts Center.

The gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM. The gallery phone is (314) 516-5976; the fax is (314) 516-4997; and email is suhret@umsl.edu. For parking locations, campus maps and directions to Gallery 210 please visit our website at umsl.edu/~gallery/ .

Gallery 210 University of Missouri-St. Louis 44 Grobman Drive Hours: Tuesday-Saturday: 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Gallery: (314) 516-5976/ Office: (314) 516-5952
Fax: (314) 516-4997
Email: gallery@umsl.edu
Web site: www.umsl.edu/~gallery/