At a Hyde Park framing shop, local artists get a chance to show their work

Hyde Park artist Marianne Hammett poses with two of her silk paintings in The Great Frame Up, 1418 E. 53rd St., where she will be featured as Artist of the Month in September.  -Marc Monaghan
Hyde Park artist Marianne Hammett poses with two of her silk paintings in The Great Frame Up, 1418 E. 53rd St., where she will be featured as Artist of the Month in September.

-Marc Monaghan

By JEFFREY BISHKU-AYKUL
Staff Writer

Hyde Park framing shop The Great Frame Up has revived its longtime tradition of highlighting the work of local artists.

Last June — after a hiatus of several years from showcasing local art — the shop at 1418 E. 53rd St. re-established its Artist of the Month program. The program gives area artists with limited exposure a chance to show off their art and give talks.

“I’m glad to have the opportunity to give them a place to showcase their art,” The Great Frame Up owner Mark Jelke said. “I know how hard it is for a lot of these artists to make a living trying to get their work out there.”

The Great Frame Up employees Jessie Whitehead and Leslie Travis — both artists themselves — resurrected the Artist of the Month program with Jelke’s blessing. They hoped it would increase the visibility of their shop after it moved several storefronts east to its new location, along a narrow pedestrian corridor.

The program’s first featured artist was Whitehead herself, a printmaker.

“I already had a body of work,” she said. “And we really wanted to get it started.”

Artists being featured at the store have worked with media ranging from photography to painting to stitchwork. Most are from Hyde Park, but Travis says showings are open to anyone from the wider South Side.

“This is often — but not always — for people who don’t have regular gallery space,” Travis said.

According to Travis, a neighborhood resident since 1968, “Back in the ‘70s or ‘80s, Hyde Park had a much larger gallery and art store presence than it does now.” She cited as an example cooperative art gallery Artisans 21, which closed last December after 37 years in Hyde Park.

September’s Artist of the Month, Marianne Hammett, happens to be an original member of Artisans 21 who helped to secure the gallery’s spot in the old Harper Court. A fabric and ceramic artist educated at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Hammett will show off nine of her works at The Great Frame Up this month.

Travis, a longtime neighbor of Hammett’s, approached her about participating. Although she says she is not aggressive about displaying her art and creates it mostly for her own enjoyment, it will be on sale.

“I’m a Hyde Parker, I want to support whatever’s going on here,” Hammett said.

For now The Great Frame Up has only scheduled artists of the month through January of next year, but it is looking to host more. Artist of the Month applicants are invited to leave the store with a letter of intent containing their contact information and a description of their art, as well as hard copy samples or a link to their online portfolio.

“I would like to see it go on as long as we can get the artists,” Jelke said.

j.bishku@hpherald.com