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Art pops up at the mall

ST. CHARLES – Art galleries and musical and theater performances temporarily have popped up in empty storefronts at the Charlestowne Mall.

Through a movement called a “pop-up” art, the Charlestowne Mall has been transformed into Charlie’s Center for the Arts through late October. Elizabeth Bellaver, president of the St. Charles Arts Council, said it’s called pop-up art because you never know where the galleries will pop up next.

Charlie’s Center for the Arts isn’t just for galleries. Fifteen storefronts are filled with music, visual art, theater productions, film, literature, magic and dance. Six of the storefronts contain visual art galleries and studios.

St. Charles resident Anne Ressman Zabinski is featuring her work alongside five other artists and photographers in a gallery called ARZ + 5. The site has been her studio since Charlie’s Center for the Arts opened Sept. 22.

“We’ve had a great turnout all the days we’ve been open,” she said. “It’s great to be able to work here and show our art.”

One of the storefronts – a former 10,000-square-foot Express store – is filled with about 150 pieces of art, making up the neXt Gallery. Bellaver said the neXt Gallery started two years ago as a pop-up gallery, and Charlie’s Center for the Arts is the sixth or seventh pop-up art event that’s been set up locally since.

“They weren’t that common a few years ago,” she said. “Now, they’re all over the highway.”

The galleries usually grace empty commercial offices that someone is trying to rent, Bellaver said. They benefit the building owners by driving foot traffic through those spaces.

Catie Barron, a St. Charles artist and volunteer at the neXt Gallery, said pieces ranged from necklaces made of noodles to functional art, such as candleholders and lighted fixtures. Everything displayed in the gallery is for sale, and Barron said prices range from $80 to $4,500.

One corner of the neXt Gallery gallery is dedicated to emerging artists who are either in college or recent graduates.

Shannon Callarman, a neXt Gallery volunteer and emerging artists coordinator, said the gallery had only three or four emerging artists when it started. The neXt Gallery now features 15 emerging artists. The gallery also hosts opening and closing events, allowing young artists to network with established artists.

“I really try to find a way to promote them and show them you can make an impact with art,” she said.

Bellaver said that’s the core of the St. Charles Arts Council’s mission. Charlie’s Center for the Arts tries to give artists the exposure they need to reach audiences and promotes cultural and artistic events in the community, she said.

Tom Hansen of Geneva is one of the painters featured in the neXt Gallery and also is a volunteer. He said the majority of the artists featured in the gallery are in the local and regional area.

“The neXt Gallery features some amazing work, and it’s all done by people you may know,” he said.

Bellaver said there aren’t many galleries in the area that allow them to promote their work. Plus, entry to the Charlie’s Center for the Arts events are free to the public.

“It’s just not something that’s easy to find,” Bellaver said. “To stop in at venues or listen to music, it doesn’t cost anything.”

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