Studio Stories

Julia Fish
How do you maintain the continual output expected of a successful mid-career artist?

Brian Kapernekas
How does space dictate practice? Practice space? The Elusive Studio...

Judy Ledgerwood
How do you create time and focus for your studio practice?

Douglas Alain Park
What is the value of working in alternative spaces?

Vanessa Shinmoto
The Home Gallery Space, A Cautionary Tale

Lee Tracy
What are effective business strategies for an artist?

Dan Zamudio and Julie Sulzen
Alternative Spaces: Turning your home into a gallery

See more Artist Stories on CAR

Bookmark and Share

This is a Flickr badge showing public items from Flickr tagged with StudioChicago. Make your own badge here.


Dan Zamudio and Julie Sulzen: Alternative Spaces: Turning your home into a gallery

Sometimes artists become so focused in searching for galleries to exhibit their artwork that they often become blind to the most obvious showcase location--their Home.

Alternative spaces that showcase artwork abound in our city. Recently my wife and I have attended openings at a restaurant, a coffeehouse, the hallway of a 1960’s office building, a library, an antique store, a bookstore, a bar, a mechanics garage, an old abandoned warehouse, and a condo. We believe that some of the best work of the city is often not represented within the “Gallery District” boundaries, but is found in other outsider locations.

For the past few years, my wife and I have been curators for an art exhibition at our own home and studio. When we originally moved into our home/studio we intended to keep separate the “home space” from the “work space”. At the time, our new location had a reputation of being known as a seedy neighborhood based on 20 years of neglect. My wife, who had been teaching art classes in the living room of her “nice neighborhood” apartment, was concerned her students may not want to continue classes at the new space. We decided that the best way for her students to become comfortable with the new location would be to use the entire space (Home and Work) for a one night only art exhibition showcasing their best work along with our own pieces. The show would be non-juried and have no entry fee. To make it even easier for the students, we offered to wire and frame their pieces. Our promotion was a postcard made on the computer announcing the show and listing all the participating students. These were sent to our friends and family and also given to the participating artists.

One hour before the start time, my wife was on the ladder duct taping wire to keep the work straight, I was frantically typing up titles and prices on labels inside a room piled high with furniture, and the phone kept ringing with people asking how to get to the show. Shouts of “We’re not going to make it!!!” could be heard echoing through our home.

My wife and I changed from work clothes to fancy attire during the one minute between the ladder being put away and the first guest arriving.

The end result was overwhelming. My wife’s students were thrilled with showing their work in a real “Art Show”. Some students even highlighted their names on the postcard they sent out to their friends and family. They brought food, wine, and goodies, although we told them it was not necessary since we would be providing all provisions. We sold a number of pieces and added over 50 names to our mailing list. Many people commented on what a wonderful time they had at our party and insisted that we do another soon. My wife had a 100 percent return on students.

This one night show to keep students had quickly turned into a tradition. Two years ago, we had over 300 people attend our event. We have been highlighted in various local newspapers and even referred to as an “an elegant gallery”. The local alderman and other politicians have attended. We have been asked to join a small business group in the neighborhood. Local business’ have asked us if they could donate coffee, flowers, or treats in exchange for a little sign promoting their business. Our exhibitions have encouraged many people to hold shows in their own homes. One woman, after being rejected from a local juried show, decided to invite all the people she knew who were also rejected to show in her condo for a special “Art is My Passion” exhibition. Once again we saw some of the best work in the city that night.

Tips for putting on an art show at your home for under $200


Remove all valuables from the viewing area. Strangers my not be art fans but criminals checking out their next location.

Place artwork on easels in front of doors to rooms you don’t want people to enter.

Don’t worry about “Perfect Lighting”. Remember, you are showing work in your home. Chances are your buyers don’t have perfect lighting in their homes either.


Option One. You can make your own postcards using Postcard Paper from the local office supply store. Templates are usually available online. These postcards are a bit flimsy and the print quality depends on your printer. The advantage though is that you can control the amount you make. I recommend sending these postcards inside an envelope.

Option Two- $49.99 for 250 postcards at You may not think you have a 250 people “mailing list” but you’ll be surprised at how fast these postcards will disappear. Begin with friends, family, and co-workers. Drop postcards off at local businesses, they always want to support neighborhood artists. Tell your friends and family to invite guests then give them a couple extra postcards to hand out. The goal should be to get rid of all the cards. Think of your postcards as a discount coupon. After the event, the discount offer expires and you’re stuck with scraps of paper.

Art Exhibitions are often listed for free in local papers. Sometimes they will even run an image of your work.

Make a sign and place it somewhere near the front door announcing “Open Studio Tonight” or “Gallery Open”. I’ve been to many openings where people will walk by and not come in based on the assumption that it was private. Let everyone know they are welcome.

FOOD: Cold
It is cheaper to buy fresh fruit, vegetables, cheese and crackers and arrange them yourself than to buy a party plate from the grocery store. Making a fruit tray is fun. One alternative artist opening I recently attended displayed the vegetables in the form of a skeleton in honor of Halloween. It is always the added extra effort that makes a difference.

You don’t need to pay for an expensive caterer when you own a microwave. Today the frozen food section contains a number of reasonably priced and tasty bite size foods that can be heated in a matter of minutes.

Cheap bottles of wine at some national stores sell for as low as three dollars. Surprisingly, some of that wine is good. Our rule is to purchase wine under eight dollars a bottle. Sometimes my wife and I buy wine strictly for the label to create a theme (all animals, oddball fun names, celebrities, etc.). It is an art opening not a wine tasting. Experiment.

Often many friends or family members will stick around much longer then you expect. Don’t be surprised if your Opening gradually turns into a Party. It’s up to you whether the doors to the public are closed on time or left open. We usually leave them open for an extra hour or more. We’ve had many visitors stop by when the opening was officially closed. These latecomers have sometimes resulted in sales. Strangers don’t know who is a relative or friend of yours, they just see a happening event and want to join

Dan Zamudio and Julie Sulzen are a husband and wife team living in the Logan Square neighborhood. Julie Sulzen's work centers on Chicago landscape oil paintings. She is a graduate of the American Academy of Fine Art with degrees in Fine Art and Illustration and has also studied portraiture under Chicago artist Grace Cole. Dan Zamudio's photography is created by using a toy camera called Diana. His work was included in the "Chicago: the Worlds' Pantry" exhibition at the Chicago Tourism Center and has been selected by the Catherine Edelman Gallery for their Chicago Project online gallery.

This story appears on the Studio Chicago site courtesy of Chicago Artists Resource. See more Artists Stories on CAR