By Megann Horstead | For the Bugle
A Joliet art gallery is facing eviction from its current location after nearly 9 years on North Chicago Street in the Rialto Square Complex.
Gallery Seven, at 116 N. Chicago Street, recently received notification from the Will County Metropolitan Exposition and Auditorium Authority, the owners and operators of the Rialto Square Complex, to vacate the property by Dec. 11.
“It was kind of a shock,” Gallery Seven President Richard Ainsworth said. “We’re not looking back.”
The gallery intends to find a new home to operate out of in or around the Joliet area.
“I think the motivating factor is they paid no rent,” Rialto Square Theatre executive Director Valerie Devine said. “We had a company tell us we could receive pay for a space on Chicago Street.”
Devine did not refute the idea of the Rialto reversing its decision to evict the gallery but gave no indication the board would seek to reestablish its agreement with Gallery Seven.
Ainsworth acknowledged that Rialto officials inquired of rent as early as August and said the gallery had received no indication they would need to vacate the premises if the two continued with its rent-free agreement.
“They’ve been a host and a sponsor,” he said. “They enabled us to serve as a center for visual arts.”
In 2016, Rialto officials voted to bring on VenuWorks as its management company. Since that time, members of the board have resigned to give Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk the authority to appoint new people to serve. Later, they chose another company to oversee the buildings.
Ainsworth said Gallery Seven had a good working relationship with the Rialto prior to the new board’s arrival. The Rialto is seeking approximately $10,000 to occupy the space, he said.
Since Gallery Seven set up shop in 2008, its partners have invested time and money to maintain the space. The site in question had previously been vacant for nearly 30 years.
“Community galleries, they’re subsidized by local government or some are paid for by endowments or they have a rent-free situation,” Ainsworth said. “I don’t think community galleries could make a profit. The goal is to promote local artists.”
Devine said the Rialto has a possible interested party for the space and acknowledged there are many factors to consider when weighing what tenant to bring in and at what price.
“Maybe they do have interested parties,” Ainsworth said.
The gallery currently utilizes approximately 11,000 square feet and is run by volunteers.
“We’re hopeful we’ll find a host and sponsor,” Ainsworth said. “We contacted our consignment artists. They’re picking up their materials. We hope to find another location in Joliet or a nearby community.