Thursday night I met up with the Chicagoist staff for dinner at Picante Grill in Pilsen. Everyone seemed to be having a great time. The food was- as always- great and there was a lot of commotion going on around the table with an extended, alarming discussion on the subject of frottage.
I walked to the restaurant and back, which was quicker than I thought. Actually it was about as long as if I had waited for a bus to come and drop me off two blocks too far north of the restaurant. On the way I passed the Pilsen Art District where the Podmajersky artists were preparing for this weekend's Art Walk. The Podmajersky family owns most- some might say all- of the galleries and artists' living spaces in the eastern side of Pilsen. Practically everything on halsted from 18th to Cullerton and on 18th East of Halsted is Podmajersky property, which brings to rise the standard criticisms that the family is taking advantage of its tenants in order to finance the family's yachting habit. Which is true to an extent, if you're a cynic and blind to the realities of gentrification.
There's been a steady influx of artists, writers, and hangers-on in the creative class down here for years now, mainly because they can no longer afford to live in Wicker Park, Bucktown, or even Humboldt Park. Compared to the rents that are being charged in those neighborhoods, they're going with the devil they know. Living as an artist is often a communal existence, so it makes sense to split a $1200 rent between four-to-six people in order to stretch out a budget.
Still, it concerns me to some degree that one family can have such a stranglehold on property in a neighborhood. It almost makes Pilsen feel like a small town within the city, at times. Which is another detriment to the artist lifestyle- it can often be insular and aloof.