JOLIET – The artists at Gallery Seven have been told to vacate the rent-free space they occupy outside the Rialto Square Theatre.
The Rialto, which is trying to maximize income out of its 2 Rialto Square office buildings, has a potential paying tenant interested in the space, board chairman Robert Filotto said.
“We’re speaking to someone right now,” Filotto said Tuesday. “That space is very valuable.”
Gallery Seven has occupied the storefront space at 116 N. Chicago St. for nearly nine years, according to a news release that the gallery sent out Tuesday.
The gallery is the last of several art galleries that were given free storefront space in 2008 at a time that the Rialto had hoped to establish an art community in space that was not being used anyway.
“Gallery Seven has endeavored to be the center for the visual arts in Joliet, just as the Rialto has been a center for the performing arts,” Gallery Seven President Richard Ainsworth said in the news release. “We’ve attempted to provide a culture oasis in a downtown struggling to again become relevant to the residents of Joliet and the surrounding area.”
Ainsworth could not be immediately reached for comment.
The news release said the notice to vacate by Dec. 11 “gave no indication what, if anything, triggered the board’s decision” to move out the gallery.
But Filotto said Gallery Seven was given an option to stay if it paid rent and that there was communication with the tenant.
“We need that space. It’s prime space,” Filotto said. “We gave them the option, but they apparently don’t feel they can pay anything.”
The Rialto board this summer hired a property manager to help rent vacant space at the 2 Rialto Square Building, which is adjacent to the theater and part of the Rialto property.
Filotto at the time said the Rialto needed to maximize its office rents to help fund the overall operation.
Gallery Seven artists for more than a year have been concerned about their future at the location. The gallery held an open house a year ago in part to build support in the downtown community for its cause. The event was lightly attended.
Gallery Seven in its news release noted its community contributions, including fundraisers for local nonprofits and hosting art exhibits. “The Art of Illinois” exhibit currently at the gallery features more than 50 Illinois artists.
The news release also noted that the gallery space was vacant for nearly 30 years before being occupied by Gallery Seven. The seven member artists in the gallery contributed their own funds and labor to make the space habitable, including installation of a $4,000 heat pump, the release said.