Post 81: The Rooming House Gallery – Connecting the Dots

Excerpts from The Rooming House Gallery – Connecting the Dots

Josh Sawicki, Age 29

Andres Rodriguez, Age 28

4822 South Justine, Chicago, IL – Back of the Yards Neighborhood

The first floor held the narrow, yet large-feeling four-bedroom apartment where Uncle Manny lived. A thought niggled at Josh about this being an ideal, permanent home for him and Andres. Behind the apartment was the small one-bedroom unit. The second floor held fifteen bedrooms and two closet-sized spaces, one with two showers and a sink, the other with a toilet, urinal and tiny sink. The third floor held thirteen rooms, each contained its own sink. A closet, similar to the second floor, held showers and another held two toilet stalls, both were tucked along the north wall. At the back was also an efficiency apartment the size of two rooms combined. It contained a narrow range, ancient refrigerator and cold water sink. It shared the bathrooms as well. It was obvious to Josh that no one lived in the rooms for years. He wondered how many.

His excitement grew by the second, especially about a lasting home for them. He forced himself to stay calm while Andres skipped around, chattering about skylights and large windows and a gallery on the second floor with studio spaces on the third. As Andres swung around in a circle, excitedly pointing out the walls he wanted to tear out, Josh recorded, “Determine load-bearing walls.” He thought again, can this be real? This was exciting, but what was stirring inside him? The idea of their own place to call home? For Andres to make art?


What a place, thought Andres. Both floors have north and south side light exposure. I could have my own gallery and studio. Hell, I could have a gallery for some of my emerging artist friends. Maybe a co-op where we could share the expenses and make more money than paying galleries half the sale price. What would folks think of coming to Back-of-the-Yards to see an art gallery? Location, location, location, but still, this place is easy to find and with quality art, people will go to marginal areas in the city. Look at what’s happening in Detroit. It’s always the artists that help bring a community back.

“Josh! I want to tear out these walls and put some skylights in from the roof. Can’t you see some of my art here?” He giggled, realizing he was feeling the home brew.

“Let’s make sure the foundation is good and the walls are solid before you start, okay? I’m making notes.”

“You’re always making notes and being so dammed practical.” Andres pulled Josh into a sloppy hug and kiss. “I’m feeling the beer, let’s go down and finish the pizza.”

“We already did.”

Andres sat down and pulled out his pad and pencil and began sketching ideas for a long narrow gallery. Eventually, he put his pencil down and stared down the narrow hallway. Who lived here? What were they like? Why would men move into a rooming house? He heard Josh going down the stairs, slowly, as if he was checking for each step. He stretched out on the dusty floor. Uncle Manny, Uncle Manny, there’s so much I want to learn about you. Mostly, why me? Why us?

What happens next? Stay tuned for As The World Turns with Josh & Andres…