High Rent, Flagging Participation Prompts Departure of Local Arts Space

After years around Hyde Park, SHoP moves to the suburbs.

By Feng Ye

The Southside Hub of Production (SHoP) moved out of Hyde Park at the end of last month because of financial difficulties.

SHoP is an independent community arts and social hub that houses art projects to create an informal learning center for children and adults. Its predecessor was the Op Shop, founded in 2009. From 2009 to 2011, the Op Shop ran four different storefronts in Hyde Park. Through a deal with the landlords for temporary use at a nominal rental fee, the arts organization paid amounts ranging from one dollar to Mac Realty to $500 to the University. It raised money after each project through crowdsourcing websites such as Kickstarter and IndieGoGo.

In 2011, Op Shop was renamed SHoP. It stayed in the Fenn House Mansion for two years, and then moved to the old O’Gara and Wilson Bookstore on 57th Street for 10 months. At the mansion, SHoP was able to pay its lease by renting out artist studios on the top floor and by running a thrift shop. At the bookstore, SHoP was at first able to stay with a reduced rent of half the commercial rate before the organization came up with funding to include the whole amount. The rent eventually proved unaffordable for SHoP.

“The rent may not be that much for a commercial business, but projects like ours cannot sustain that amount monthly,” said Laura Shaeffer, director and co-founder of SHoP.

Over the years, SHoP has held weekend flea markets, community meetings, art events, and workshops for both adults and children. “I think we provided a space of opportunity for elements of Hyde Park that rarely mingle to meet in a warm, inclusive and collaborative atmosphere,” Shaeffer said.

When SHoP was in the Fenn House mansion, located just east of campus, many University students worked on the hub’s projects. “I have met and collaborated with some really smart and talented students, I think a project like ours was important for them…. They met members of the community they would have never met before, at potluck dinners, concerts, political talks, happy hours, and workshops,” Shaeffer said.

When the nomadic art organization changed location, however, SHoP lost some of its student and community support. “I don’t think people have lost interest but Hyde Park is changing, there has always been a sense of transience here with the student body and the University, and many people have left us over the past years who had been deeply supportive,” Shaeffer said.

SHoP is moving into Oak Park, a suburb along Chicago’s western border, and plans to open at the new location in September. It will be known as the Suburban Hub of Production. The new SHoP aims at interacting with the wider city creatively. “It’s just time for a change…. SHoP will always live on the South Side, even if only in spirit… We are currently developing other branches of Southside Hub that may populate different parts of the city in new and interesting ways,” Shaeffer said.