The Coffee House Art Gallery: An "Alternative" to the Alternative Art Space
Padilla, Sarah M
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The term “alternative space,” referring to art exhibition and performance spaces that combated the strict and dominating mainstream art world, has already been largely defined through academic and professional research. The primary definition used in this thesis comes from Lynne Warren’s 1984 publication, Alternative Spaces: A History in Chicago, that describes the alternative space as “Not-for-profit or noncommercial organizations originated by and for artists (and assuring them a primary role in policy development and programming) that primarily shows Chicago-area artists, has a fixed location and operates on a continuous basis.” The vagueness of the term, “alternative space,” however, excludes other types of “alternative spaces” that have been established, including the public space focused on in this thesis, the coffee house. Without any previous scholarly research conducted on the coffee house specifically as an alternative art venue, this thesis approaches multiple angles of the function and purpose of the coffee house gallery, including the evolution of the coffee industry, the rise of alternative spaces, Ray Oldenburg’s concept of “third place,” systems of value within the art market, and perceptions of coffee house art. The research also utilizes three case studies of Chicago-area coffee house galleries to provide a closer look at exhibition practices within the coffee house and how they foster relationships with their respective communities.
SubjectCoffee House Gallery, Exhibition Practices, Alternative Spaces