Art & Museums

Rare Nest Gallery in Avondale: Keith Bringe Creates Community Beyond Art

By Megan Williamson

At the Rare Nest Gallery in Avondale, Keith Bringe is creating a community that goes beyond curating art on walls. Through exhibits, concerts and other events, he brings together filmmakers, musicians, art historians, architects, journalists, librarians, neighbors and many others in conversation. Guest author and artist Megan Williamson tells his story and previews a September exhibit.

Several years ago Keith Bringe called to ask if I would like to show in a gallery he was opening in Avondale. Keith had written about my art in his blog and I knew him through his work at the Frank Lloyd Wright Unity Temple Restoration Foundation. I asked what the focus of his gallery would be and he said “artists over 50.” What a radical idea! I said I was in.

He wanted to develop something beyond the white cube—with lectures, film premieres, concerts, private viewing parties as well as openings and closings—and that was even more of an incentive for me to work with him. When my show Defying Gravity was shown at his Rare Nest Gallery last fall, we brought in professor Janet Davis from University of Texas Austin to talk about the effects of the American circus on 20th century culture, with a focus on female performers. It was a fascinating complement to my circus-centric painting and drawings on exhibit. The lecture drew a standing room crowd and created the kind of synergy Rare Nest is becoming known for.

So why did Keith decide to open a gallery that represents artists over 50? For him it is recognizing what beauty, insight and a lifetime commitment to making art can bring to the world. Those “10,000 hours” you want to see in your surgeon, attorney or in an athlete, also bring mastery and depth when spent in the studio. Rare Nest is a gallery that celebrates the unusual premise that this is work worth showing.

In addition to the work of contemporary artists, Rare Nest Gallery also represents the estates of two 20th century artists. It has the computer-generated drawings and music scores of German composer Herbert Brun (father of Prop Thtr’s Stefan Brun). Brun was a pioneer in electronic music, computer graphics and new musical notation (he worked with John Cage). The other is of the German expressionist painter and printmaker Otto Neumann, who survived the Third Reich and was labeled as a degenerate artist by the Nazis (an automatic honorific). Neumann’s exploration of the figure lasted over six decades and his range and interests are well represented. Bringe has hosted exhibitions of each artist’s work both at the gallery and other Chicago locations as he works to bring their work the recognition it deserves.

What Keith described to me during that initial phone conversation has come to be. He opened Rare Nest Gallery’s doors in the fall of 2017 and  by his count, over 5,000 people have come. They have made it on snowy winter evenings, humid summer days and those perfect spring nights. These openings and events are well attended. Through the work he exhibits and the events he hosts, Keith has begun to stitch together a community. It is made up of the expected collectors, artists and friends – but he has added filmmakers, epidemiologists, musicians, art historians, professors, art restorers, architects, reporters, neighbors, librarians, writers and at least one FBI agent (specializing in art crimes and forgeries).

At some point during any given event Keith will stand on a chair so he can make his announcement. He’ll talk about the artists, the work on the walls, and upcoming Rare Nest happenings. These chair-top talks are never long as the chairs are antique and slightly precarious. They always end with him directing everyone to look at the artwork, pointing out that he has payment plans available, asking us to have a good time and to please eat and drink (everything is served on his eclectic collection of vintage chinaand glassware).

On Saturday, September 14, Rare Nest is opening an exhibition of seven gallery artists (including my own work, I’m pleased to say). It is a good opportunity for visitors to see the range of artwork Rare Nest shows. I encourage you to come to Avondale, enjoy the terrific work of some artists of longstanding, and experience Keith Bringe’s hospitality first hand.

The exhibit—Aut Si Quid*: Seven Gallery Artists—opens with a reception from 6 to 9pm on Saturday, September 14, and continues through October 18. Make a reservation by calling or emailing Keith: 708-616-8671.

*Latin: what we do (echoes in eternity)

The artists whose work will be shown:

  • Nancy Abrams—photojournalism in Appalachia, 1974 – 1985
  • Herbert Brun—early computer graphics
  • Sharon Goodman—abstract drawings and prints
  • Otto Neumann—expressionist works on paper, 1926 – 1950
  • Leopold Segedin—paintings and drawings
  • John T. Upchurch—sculpture
  • Megan Williamson—new paintings

Rare Nest Gallery is located at 3433 N. Kedvale. Hours are 1-5pm Wednesday-Saturday or by appointment. Reservations are required for all events. More info at 708-616-8671 or you can email Keith here.

Megan Williamson is a Chicago painter who has had 24 solo exhibitions and has been in more than 70 group shows. She is a member of The Midwest Paint Group, Zeuxis: an association of still life painters (NYC) and 7 on Site.

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