Friday, August 24, 2012

Help Las Manos Gallery Stay Open!

Dear Friends of Las Manos Gallery,

After serving Chicago and its artists for nearly two decades we are sad to report that our landlord, through Cagan Management, has declined to renew our lease at the end of October 2012.

Las Manos Gallery moved to the community in 1994, bringing with it the culture that helped create the vibrant Andersonville of today. It was one of the first aesthetic pioneers in the area, paving the way for design-based businesses to set up residence in empty storefronts. Today "Design Alley" is thriving, but seems to have less room for places like Las Manos. The gentrification of neighborhoods often means pushing out the long-term establishments in exchange for chain stores that can afford inflated rents. Andersonville deserves to keep its culture!

The gallery's contributions reach far beyond simple commerce. Scores of artists show their work at Las Manos, and for many of them the gallery is their main if not sole source of income. It employs architects, wood workers and many other professionals.
The business is a rare outpost of art on the North Side.

The many events that take place at Las Manos bring in people from all over the city, and whether they buy art or not, they fan out into Andersonville and support its businesses. Las Manos has also raised tens of thousands of dollars for charities both close to home and around the globe. Non-profits like Equality Illinois, Engineers Without Borders-USA and Greyhound Rescue have benefited from art auctions and promotions provided by the gallery. 

Las Manos is not ready to shut down. The gallery increases the value of this neighborhood and provides a great deal of support to many people. We feel this assault on culture should not be allowed to happen! Please join us in trying to turn the tables on this horrible situation- consider writing a sentence or two in opposition
to this forced closing.

Thank you for the support over the years,

Owner Michelle Peterson-Albandoz & Las Manos Gallery Artists

Email us your support:

Letters from Supporters:

I am writing as a member of the Andersonville business community and as a volunteer for an organization, called Engineers Without Borders, to attempt to persuade you to re-new an affordable lease for Michelle Peterson-Albandoz and the Las Manos Gallery at 5220 North Clark.  This gallery is one of the unique reasons that the Andersonville neighborhood is so distinctive and worth inhabiting and visiting.  They are a business that creates culture and character that draws so much foot traffic and profitability for it's business neighbors, who go to this neighborhood for things, like this gallery, that can NOT be found anywhere else, then eat in local restaurants and continue to shop locally.  I know of another local business on Clark that moved in partially as a result of the "design community" atmosphere that Las Manos has helped to create.  If this lynchpin gallery were to move, other restaurants and retail stores that Cagan manages will also likely suffer a loss of revenue.  Quality arts groups, like Las Manos, embellish and ennoble their communities in ways that can not be accounted for directly, until their loss is felt in underserved neighborhoods.  There is a symbiotic economic relationship which Las Manos creates within its community that can not be understood when one just considers eliminating one business for the profits of another.

People can get a Starbucks coffee anywhere, but this is an extremely high quality enterprise that is committed to being a positive resource for the arts, artists and a larger community.  Through the volunteer efforts of Michelle Peterson-Albandoz, Mieke Zuiderweg at the gallery and the charity of a stable of over 20 professional artist associates that donated work for a silent auction in May, our Chicagoland Chapter of Engineers Without Borders was able to raise over $6,800 for an international clean water program, for which we volunteer.  If this gallery were to leave this neighborhood, organizations like ours have lost an ally that we could not recover.  Starbuck's can not replace this wonderful business.  Can you understand what a remarkable act of effort and generosity that Ms. Peterson-Albandoz made for our group this year and casually continues to make for other charities in the city?  Wouldn't you wish to find a way to allow this tenant to continue to operate and benefit all businesses and residents of this community?  What if your profit margins for a new tenant were to increase marginally? Is that a reason to terminate such a civic-minded business?  Does your building owner only know the cost of things, but the value of nothing?

I ask that you please consider negotiating further with Ms. Peterson-Albandoz on the lease to keep the North Clark community unique and vital. 

Thank You,
Jim Hall
The Hicks Architectural Group
Assistant Adjunct Professor, Illinois Institute of Technology
Volunteer, Engineers Without Borders Chicagoland Chapter


I understand from Michelle Peterson-Albandoz that Cagan Realty has declined to renew the Las Manos lease. Las Manos has been a vital part of Andersonville since 1998, and its contributions reach far beyond simple commerce: scores of artists show their work at Las Manos, and for many of them, 
Las Manos is their main if not sole source of income, and Las Manos is a rare outpost of art on the North side. Peterson-Albandoz employs architects and designers and other professionals. The many events that take place at Las Manos bring people from all over the city, and whether they buy art or not, they fan out into Andersonville and support its businesses when they visit. Las Manos also has raised tens of thousands of dollars for charities both close to home and around the globe. 

Given that Las Manos seems to fit so squarely within the intent of the recently released Cultural Plan and actually has operated for years as a bellwether, I'm reaching out to you now to ask for your leadership and advocacy in endeavoring to persuade Cagan to rethink its position and renew the Las Manos lease. 

Susana Darwin 
West Andersonville Neighbors Together 


I cannot think of gallery with a more interesting roster of artist -- both well established and new -- and I cannot imagine a better use of the space. Or a better addition to a neighborhood.

Chuck Thurow
Executive Director, retired
Hyde Park Art Center


Andersonville has long been upheld as an example of one of the truly unique neighborhoods in Chicago: eclectic, diverse, cultural and welcoming. Part of the charm for me, a relocated New Yorker, is that neighborhood feel that comes from the mix of generations. Andersonville thrives because it has not lost its connection to its Swedish roots, yet has managed to attract artists, designers and restaurants. 
I do not pretend to know the financial or business relationship between Las Manos Gallery and its landlord, yet barring a complete breakdown in communication or long term lack of payment of rent, I cannot see any true gains for either Cagan management or the city of Chicago. With so many businesses closing, with dozens of empty store fronts throughout our region, why add to the downturn? Having a thriving, vibrant business gives the appearance of succes even in times of fnancial stress. Surely, as business and development people, you can see the advantage of this kind of advertising. The gallery is also a primary source of income for many of those that shop in surrounding stores, eat at the local restaurants. Dry up their income, and your neighbors go down, too.
I urge you to reconsider your decision not to renew the lease for Las Manos Gallery. Work with Michelle. Ask the city for guidance. Keep Andersonville from becoming a suburban strip mall, and instead support your neighborhoods diversity.

Rita Grendze


It is very sad that I hear today of your unwillingness to renew the lease for Michelle and Los Manos Gallery. I have shopped in her gallery since its earliest days and some of my favorite art hanging on my walls and the walls of dear friends has come from her gallery---and specifically from her hands.

Michelle has been a breath of fresh air for Andersonville and has been steady in her support of the neighborhood and her fellow business owners. She’s never had a bad word to say about anyone in our community and the loss of her gallery would be tragic to say the least.

Please consider art for art’s sake…but also consider the vibe she’s helped to create along this street and reconsider your decision. Please renew her lease so she may continue the good fight!

Long Live Las Manos!


Paul Dooley


I am shocked and dismayed by the possibility of Las Manos closing. The gallery provides a welcome respite and a diverse contribution to the neighborhood. It is unique to have a neighborhood gallery of such quality and talented stable of artists. It would be a sad statement on the gentrification of Andersonville if one of the pioneers and supporters of the neighborhood were forced to close!

In support of Las Manos!!

Michael Calogero


I am appalled to hear that this long time cultural establishment is being ousted of its current home for what will most likely be an establishment that offers no real creative outlet for the artist in the area. The denizens of not only Andersonville but all the neighborhoods in Chicago will be losing an incredible gallery that has hosted substantial and significant artists and large scale exhibits. For many people, this a local way to immerse themselves in art and in the lives of the artists not only in their community but surrounding neighborhoods as well. I urge you to please find a way to keep this gallery open. In an era where our history is being uprooted and erased in exchange for a quick buck, it will become clearer to us the sacrifice we've made for maximizing profit but comprising character at which point it will be too late. 

Thank you for your consideration on this matter.

Adriana Heredia


Writing in support of Las Manos.  It would be a terrible loss to the neighborhood if the gallery were to close.  I truly look forward to every exhibit and Las Manos is a destination for me coming from the western suburbs.  I find the work to be uniquely interesting and surprising.  It is always a pleasure to see what's new and gallery staff are always helpful, welcoming and lovely.  Las Manos adds immensely to the Andersonville business district, in my opinion, and such galleries that show "accessible" fine art are few and far between anywhere!  Please don't leave.
Sincerely - Nancy Hejna


Las Manos Gallery has been my Chicago favorite since I moved here 5 years ago. You and I have met and talked several times between openings and my being a frequent visitor.  I'm a local metalsmith and an elementary art teacher in Skokie.

Michelle Beatrice


I am shocked and dismayed that Las Manos Gallery is being forced to move!  I am positive that Las Manos has infinitely more fans than Cagan and is infinitely more of an asset to Andersonville!  I'm sure that you are aware that Las Manos is an attraction and destination point for many,  many Chicagoans and tourists who otherwise would be unlikely to visit Andersonville.  It was one of the earliest of the unique galleries and shops that now populate Andersonville.  It has,  for years, continued to be  an anchor of the Andersonville community and a catalyst for its growth.  The gallery embodies and defines the qualities that are special about the neighborhood.    I, for one, cannot imagine Andersonville without Las Manos, and am unlikely to continue to be a regular visitor to the neighborhood.
In addition to its enormous value to Andersonville, Las Manos is an invaluable, respected and beloved part of the art community in Chicago.  It supports, exhibits, inspires and mentors dozens of artists.  Through Las Manos, talented artists who otherwise would be unknown, have gained recogntion and success.  It is  unthinkable that the gallery might not survive.  What a loss to the entire Chicago art community!  
I do not know if Cagan owns the building.  If so, SHAME ON YOU!!!  If not, Cagan should have taken a leadership role in persuading the owner of the value of this tenant to the entire community, and Cagan should have been instrumental in mediating an economic deal which wouldbe acceptable to  the owner.
I, for one, am willing to invest whatever time necessary to be sure that tenants of other Cagan buildings, as well as any future tenant of the Las Manos space, know the harm that you are inflicting on the community.  I will make it a personal goal to see that Cagan will suffer from this outrage even more that Las Manos.
Lora Sanberg


Today in a Toronto gallery, a couple of Chicago residents boasted proudly to me about the quality of contemporary and conceptual work at Las Manos Gallery. So much so that it warranted my doing an internet search. It is definitely a galley space that I hope to one day visit and maybe even exhibit. News travels quickly—hoping to hear some good news about your gallery's lease renewal. 

Best wishes,



  1. Thank you so much for sharing this. You deserve all the support possible for this situation. Is there a way to contact Cagan Management in support of your gallery or would you prefer another outlet to show support? Thanks so much and wishing you all the very best in the future.

    Lisa Muscato

  2. LEAVE THE GALLERY OPEN!! Andersonville does not need another chain store, Walgreens, Potbelly, yogurt shop, baby clothing store. It needs ART! We are not Lincoln Park.

  3. This is an important part of the Andersonville 'vibe'. It's bad enough that a Walgreen's went in (seriously, another pharmacy when there is already a Jewel-Osco and a family run pharmacy in that block). I live in Rogers Park, but walk into Andersonville weekly because I enjoy the quirky shops and galleries. Don't take away something that helped make the neighborhood what it is!