Photo Credit - Scott Stewart/Sun-Times
Photo Caption -
Gregor Mortis Tatro, owner of Charybdis Multi-Arts Complex, 4423 N. Milwaukee, is wrapped in a canvas painted by women who poured paint on their torsos and rolled on it.

Chicago Sun-Times - Wednesday July 4, 2001
Front Page

What’s considered art in Jefferson Park?

Mayhem art party gets shut down
City raids studio after event, cites fees
But some suspect closing due to moral opposition

By Abdon M. Pallasch
Legal Affairs Reporter

A topless woman painting with her breasts may be fine for Wicker Park. . .

But in Jefferson Park, bungalow belt sensibilities were tested when the Charybdis Multi-Arts Complex opened in September pushing the boundaries of what neighbors consider “art.”

A party in May advertised body painting, open microphones, a “massive dance floor,” a paintball shooting gallery, and facilities for skateboarders, pool and darts.

Police and city officials raided the event and arrested owner Gregor Mortis Tatro for allegedly violating the city’s “rave” ordinance.

At a hearing last week, some neighbors told Ald. Patrick Levar (45th) it’s time for the neighborhood to grow up and let the center reopen.

Avant-garde art may fly in Wicker Park, but farther up Milwaukee Avenue in Jefferson Park, eyebrows rise a lot higher when a woman takes off her shirt, pours paint on herself and rolls on a canvas.

Since the Charybdis Multi-Arts Complex opened on Milwaukee Avenue in September, artists there have been accused of everything from corrupting the morals of local youth to throwing booze bashes.

The studio was closed a month ago after the city’s Revenue Department, accompanied by police officers, raided the studio during a party billed as “Mayhem: breaking the barriers of creativity.”

Attendees were invited to play music, dance to a world-beat band on a “massive dance floor,” play in a paintball shooting gallery, shoot pool, throw darts and paint.

”There was one person, she didn’t want to get paint on her shirt,” Gregor Mortis Tatro said. “She was a very modest girl. She squirted paint all over her chest. One of her friends dragged her by the feet across the canvas. It wasn’t like she was trying to titillate anyone.”

Noting no one under 18 was admitted Tatro said, “If you can die for your country and you can vote, then you can see a brief flash of a woman’s breasts.”

It wasn’t the body-painting that bothered the city but the $10 admission, said Jenny Hoyle, spokeswoman for the city Law Department. Tatro said it was a suggested donation. Hoyle disagrees.

”The revenue investigators were told at the door they had to pay $10 to get in,” Hoyle said. “It really is no concern of ours what the pictures look like. The fact is they are operating outside what the limited business license allows. He purports to be running an art gallery. All he can do is sell artwork.”

Would the city raid a tony Wicker Park art gallery offering wine and cheese and string quartet at an art showing?

”You can define these things by common sense,” Hoyle said. “I don’t think people going to that location would think they were going to buy art.”

Tatro was jailed and fined $30,000 for not having a liquor license, a juice bar license, an amusement license or a food license. He was ordered to stop running the studio.

A week later, he had 20 people over to watch a movie for a weekly film-and-chat meeting. Another brigade of revenue and inspectors came and arrested him again.

”One of the police officers came back the next day and apologized,” Tatro said. “He said, “We were told this was a rave with drugs, underage drinking and a possible hostile environment and that’s what I was mentally prepared for.”

Tatro blames the office of Ald. Patrick Levar (45th) for putting the heat on the city to close the studio. Levar could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Levar held a public hearing on the studio last week and Tatro said he was impressed at how many neighborhood people showed up to support the gallery.

”This isn’t Wicker Park this is Mayberry,” one man said.

But George Karzas, owner of the Gale Street Inn and chairman of the Jefferson Park Chamber of Commerce, urged that the studio be re-opened. “This neighborhood does need a little bit of a turnaround a new energy, a new influx of business. There are too many empty storefronts,” Karzas said.

Levar must decide whether to back a zoning change for the building that houses the studio. Even if the zoning is changed, Tatro will have to get new licenses and special use permits for, among other thing the lack of parking, city officials say.

Karzas suspects parking, more than morality drives opposition to the studio. “I think the biggest issue is parking, to be honest with you. Residents are really worried about what happens when it gets popular.”

Photo Credit - Scott Stewart/Sun-Times

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