Empty buildings in a downtown have the potential to be an eyesore, but NCI Artworks and Re/Max Country Real Estate Agent DeAnna Carlson have found a way to draw attention to these buildings in a positive way.
NCI Artworks Executive Director Chris Coughlin said they created a phantom gallery when they first started in 2011, “there one minute and gone in another.”
“It was the idea that when you put artwork in the windows of empty properties, you create a sense of life that helps attract people’s attention,” Coughlin said. “They might walk by an empty building and the art captures their attention.”
Coughlin said NCI Artworks has a hallway gallery at their La Salle location that’s filled with artwork from local artists that area realtors and business owners can check out and use for 30 days.
“If there’s a vacant building, we lend the art and it creates life in a space that’s normally empty and doesn’t draw any attention,” Coughlin said. “Other times, a brand new business could be looking for ways to improve their commercial setting and we lend out pieces to help them get a feel for the kind of art they want in their place.”
Carlson said she tries to pair the artwork with the buildings to create a matching aesthetic that sticks out but still looks good.
“People see the art and they want to know what’s going on,” Carlson said. “We’ve had more interest in these properties.”
NCI Artworks has about 40 different pieces of art that can be checked out from the hallway gallery and that number is growing, as the Art Institute of Chicago is allowing several of their masterpieces to become public domain, which means NCI Artworks can have them reprinted.
NCI Artworks also has paintings in the halls of Washington School in Oglesby.
“I was contacted by the principal and he said he wanted ways to introduce art into a school environment,” Coughlin said. “He sent his librarian to the gallery and she picked out art for the school. This is something we’d love to build on.”
NCI Artworks requires the artist’s name must be visible wherever the art is displayed and the artwork must be returned after 30 days, at which point another piece can be chosen if the need for another piece is there.