Part art gallery, part bar and restaurant, Gallery Bar grand opens in River… (Jeff Camp )
What is art?
Gallery Bar creative director Dustin Rybka printed this question on flyers and created the website whatisart2you.com to spark a discussion in the months leading up to his bar/gallery/restaurant's opening.
He realizes the question is quite vague—and that's the point.
"It was really built to be mysterious," Rybka said of the marketing campaign, which also included mailing out Campbell's soup cans intended to evoke Andy Warhol's screen prints.
He says the mysterious question fits the non-conforming spirit of Gallery Bar, which plans a Friday grand opening in the former Highball Lounge space on the second floor of 738 N. Clark St.
"Picture an old, stuffy art gallery and in the middle of the night, these new guys—tough, contemporary street artists—come in and replace everything," Rybka said. "Picture partying and dancing to a DJ inside an art gallery. It’s very rebellious in nature."
Gallery Bar's identity is something of a collage. It's partially a bar, serving a menu of beer cocktails, wine and spirits; it's partially a restaurant with a global street-food-inspired menu that includes wonton nachos with ahi tuna and a bacon-filled vegetable pancake; and it's partially an art gallery that will display and sell works by approximately 25 local artists.
"I was really inspired by [Andy Warhol's] Factory, where it was just as famous for the screen prints as it was for these parties where you’d have Mick Jagger partying next to a homeless person," Rybka said. "I envision Gallery Bar as a place where you can have a guy in a suit and a skinny tie next to a tatted-up girl with dark-frame glasses next to a big literature buff drinking red wine."
Rybka hopes the bar, with a capacity of about 110 people, will not only be a place to dance and drink, but also will break down barriers between young people and art.
"We really wanted it to be rebellious in the sense that you don’t have to conform to what everyone thinks is fine art," he said. "We want to do things that make you think, and show you things you might not even know you're interested in."
While Rybka expects the bar to have a low-key vibe during the week, he's planning ambitious parties and art performances on the weekends.
"You can come on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday with a date and have an extremely intimate experience, then come back on Saturday and be like 'Wait a minute, there’s 100-something people here, it’s dark and candlelit and I’m drunk and there’s a DJ,'" he said. "We're planning a lot of surprises. You’ll never know what to expect."
firstname.lastname@example.org | @redeyeeatdrink
Want more? Discuss this article and others on RedEye's Facebook page.