Archer Beach Haus
by Max Morris
Since last winter, I was hearing rumblings about new goings on at a large brick building off Archer Avenue- a new spot hosting local oddities that often go underrepresented in the Chicago scene. The first show I attended in this space was Forced into Femininity screaming at the crowd with the end 4-foot long fluorescent bulb sticking out of their mouth. The space has featured performances from musicians E.G. Nguzunguzu, Cave, Bitchin Bajas, CCR Headcleaner, Running, Profligate, Palberta, Sissy Spacek, Toupee, and Hogg, and featured shows curated by local artists such as Sofia Moreno. I wanted to take the time to speak with the folks who are setting up events in this space, and get an idea of what type of people invite such activity into their home.
Max Morris: Can you tell me a bit about who you are, and how you came to live at the Beach Haus?
Zuleika Irvin: I’m a visual artist and recent addition to the haus. I joined in July. I’m new to living in a gallery/show space and it’s been great so far. I enjoy living in an active art environment.
Matthew Hord: I moved to Archer Beach Haus because I hate children and there aren’t any in Bridgeport.
Zuleika Irvin: Hah! Yeah we’re in an odd section of the area, more industrial and commercial. I came to know of Archer through my friend Mairead, who’s also a good friend of Ana. And also from someone who I met through the typical summer scramble to network a move.
Simon Briggs: I moved into the space in January, which was when the Beach Haus was born. The space hadn’t been used in a while so it was in rough shape. Matt, Cody, Anja, and I did some spring cleaning and construction and breathed some life into it
Anja Morell: I am Anja Morell: an arts educator, performance artist, zine maker and community yoga instructor. I moved into the space in February during the blizzard, and built my bedroom with help from my good friend Pastel Fractal. I have been curating events, teaching yoga on Wednesdays and performing a lot during my time here. Archer Beach Haus is a designated FASN (Feminist Action Support Network) Peach Space, meaning it is a safe space with designated Support Liaisons at our events.
Coco Wallace: I am a filmmaker, trombonist, and budding visual artist. How I ended up at the archer beach haus is that back in December of ’14 I had to choose between moving to LA or finding a spacious artist loft in Chicago. Through fairly rapid word of mouth I found out about the archer building having an open 2nd floor. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. So, I decided to stay. Many long Chicago to Baltimore (where Simon was located at the time) phone calls later, we found roommates and I went to check out the physical spot a couple times. It was a lot of tough work, still is, but it pays off.
Max Morris: At what point did you realize that an alternative space was needed in Chicago?
Matt Hord: Is it needed?
Zuleika Irvin: A question that’s been bled bone dry for me is why I’m here in Chicago, when I could be in sunny Los Angeles. I came out here to be with friends who are after the same thing; an opportunity to live a personally successful and independent life. At this point and time, being in LA means I did not achieve that. This place is also vast and full of creative ventures popping off, plus decent lgbt services. Chicago, despite all that plagues it, is definitely in the list of top cities to be if you’re trying to grow as an artist. Places like ABH demonstrate that pretty well.
Simon Briggs: I think for us it was a no brainer to start curating, booking, etc. we have an eclectic assortment of inspirations that we want to share through the events and exhibitions. Its a collaborative exercise. We’ve all fallen for Bridgeport and it’s exciting to help cultivate the neighborhood arts alongside some other really great organizations
Coco Wallace: I don’t necessarily think it’s needed, or that wasn’t our intention straight away. We just desired a place we could call our own for creativity. The biggest idea we all wanted to spread was that we are very welcoming to all different people, vibes and art forms.
Max Morris: This isn’t the first time that the space has hosted shows- in the early 00’s, the Texas Ballroom hosted shows. The building also has hosted events as far back as the turn of the century. With so much history attached to the space, what do you see happening at the Beach House over the next year?
Coco Wallace: It was originally a Lithuanian ballroom. With that said, I’d like to get more dancing events in here.
Anja Morell: We are conscious of a lot of the history of the building, including the “devil” visiting in the late 1900s. Over the next year, we would like to continue to make it our own space with a new identity. Our biggest goals include being a welcoming safe space with emphasis on art and music, and not being centered around partying (though it does get pretty fun here). We enjoy maintaining a down-to-earth personality (which is part of why our name invokes chillness) but also having high expectations for ourselves and others. More art gallery events, performance art, noise and electronic music, as well as yoga and other workshop events are in our plans.
For more information on Archer Beach Haus, you will have to take to the internet- but do some internet hunting, or talk to a weird friend, and hopefully I’ll see you there.