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Meet Barbara Gazdik of Mars Gallery in West Loop

Today we’d like to introduce you to Barbara Gazdik.

Barbara is one of the original founders of the Mars Gallery. She and artist Peter Mars arrived in Chicago in 1988 from New Orleans and opened the Mars Gallery. The existing art scene River North seemed a little to stuffy so they searched the city a perfect location and found Fulton Market was just the right spot for them.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
When Mars, the namesake studio/gallery and headquarters of renowned pop artist Peter Mars, opened in 1988 in Chicago’s West Loop meatpacking district, its off-the-beaten path location was a good indicator that it carried art you weren’t likely to find in galleries in more mainstream locations.

Its vibe was different, too. Far from stuffy, Mars Gallery has welcomed everyone from curious art novices to serious collectors with the same friendly attitude for a quarter of a decade. Like Nashville’s Hatch Show Print, Mars Gallery is a required stop for visitors to Chicago, whether they’re looking to buy or just looking for fun.

Through the decades, the West Loop has evolved into one of Chicago’s trendiest areas.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Mars Gallery story. Tell us more about the business.
A cat in a smoking jacket at the door, a disco mirror ball on the ceiling and a fully-stocked bar inside a working freight elevator are not the quirky details you’d expect to find inside an art gallery. But they’re exactly what throngs of art lovers from all over the globe have come to expect—and love—about visiting Mars Gallery over the past 29 years.

Gallery founder, Barbara Gazdik is always on hand–-along with her well-dressed feline assistant manager, Sammy–-to talk about the collection of retro and modern pop, figurative art and colorful paintings. On request, she’ll even give tours of Peter Mars’ studio, so visitors can see work in progress by the artist who exhibits internationally and serves as one of the official artist of the Elvis Presley Foundation.

The must-see space, complete with bar inside a frequently used freight elevator at the rear of the gallery, is also a popular spot for parties, weddings and social events hosted by Chicago’s most in-the-know crowds who want to be in the gallery that started the movement of Chicago’s art scene to what’s now one of the city’s most exciting neighborhoods.

Mars Gallery is like a happening all its own, and namesake artist Peter Mars credits the people of Chicago for creating its exciting vibe. He remains inspired by the diversity of the West Loop, an area filled with everything from meat markets to fashion photography businesses to galleries, it represents a cross-section of real Chicago, complete with loads of hustle, bustle and energy. It’s not uncommon to see models walking past forklift drivers just steps from Mars.

Peter Mars has been leader in Chicago’s Avant pop movement for more than 25 years, creating colorful artworks that disrupt predictable interpretation, tickle the senses delight the senses and delight the child inside, Much of Mars’ work reflects the American pop culture of his childhood in the 1960s and 70s, notably the idealized American family, comic book figures, television and space age inventions. Much of Mars’ work reflects the American pop culture of his childhood in the 1960s and 70s, notably the idealized American family, comic book figures, television and space age inventions.

Housed in a 19th century all-brick timber loft, the gallery is home to a wonderful variety of art and artists, including contemporary, modern pop art, abstract, figurative and more. Its three stories are packed with art, displayed on every surface, even suspended from the ceilings.

The staff of Mars Gallery welcomes anyone with a curious spirit. Whether you’re an experienced art collector, or you’re just beginning to find your eye, we’re thrilled to help you find works that fill your home with inspiration and spark engaging conversation. Our staff is known for having exquisite taste, and we take care to ensure you choose artwork you’ll love for a lifetime.

As a bonus: We also offer custom framing services, for work purchased at our gallery or elsewhere, as well as residential and commercial art installation. Make an appointment today to learn more.

Aside from Pater Mars, many artists from Chicago and beyond have shown their work at here. Past exhibitors include: Reb Roberts, Howard Finster, Keith Haring, Tom D., Michael Hedges, Karen Parisian, Ed Paschke, RA Miller, Mose Toliver, Kevin Luthardt, Ken Brown, John Stango, Craig Kersten, Sioban Lombardi, Karen Brittain, Eric Skaggs, Syndy Ziegenfuss, John Stango, Jay Ryan, Frank Kozik, Lauren Brescia, Jeff Schaller, Joey Africa, Rodney White, Melody Postma, Ben Synstelien, Mark Huddle, Lee Godie, Wesley Willis, Artistic Bombing Crew, and many, many more.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
Not necessarily luck, but we believe we are housed in a very unique and fortuitous location…

Since its opening, Mars Gallery has played host to what we call “the Vortex,” a center of creative energy that many people feel vibrate through their bodies and minds. According to parapsychologists, much of the creative energy that appears here at Mars Gallery derives from the gallery space’s location: almost directly on top of one of Earth’s “energy vortex circles.”

The creative vibrational energy inside the gallery is unmistakable. Feeling adventurous? We encourage visitors to experience the energy from the source. Down the back alley, near the gallery’s rear loading docks, you’ll find circular squiggles of spray paint and diamond dust that Chicago artists traditionally leave as tokens of gratitude. This is the center of the Vortex. If you see memorial objects, please do not remove them, artists consider this sacred ground. Take in the space and allow yourself to relax. Chances are, you’ll feel an energizing influx of creativity.

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Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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