Chicago street artist Dont Fret hopes people feel at home when they visit his Wicker Park gallery space—at least in part because the gallery is located inside Fret’s actual home, an apartment on Damen Avenue filled with vintage furniture and family mementos in addition to the art on the walls.
Inspired by his upbringing amid Wicker Park’s DIY scene as well as time spent living in an artist commune in London, Fret aims to fuse elements of art, food and culture at the half-gallery, half-apartment space, which he’s named Home Away From Home. When it opens to the public on December 10, the gallery will debut “Making Friends With Hungry Ghosts,” a solo exhibition of Fret’s work from the past several months, plus a selection of vintage furniture curated by Brent Rawlinson and Daniella Caruso.
“I’m very interested in showing the public something other than what you normally think about for a gallery, like a white cube where you show artwork,” Fret says. “[Home Away From Home] is sort of an avant garde-like art gallery where you know you’re walking into someone’s home, but it’s understood that it’s an art gallery and things are for sale.”
“Making Friends With Hungry Ghosts,” a freewheeling collection of paintings and ceramics, is the artist’s first solo show in Chicago since 2018; it’s also just the beginning of his plans for Home Away From Home. In January, Fret plans to launch an artist residency program at the gallery that will highlight street and graffiti artists from around the world (especially those who work illegally, he says) along with a roster of DIY-style cultural programming ranging from poetry readings to a dinner series called Sadeira—named for a Portuguese word that roughly translates to “last one”—that will invite artists and chefs to serve their hypothetical death row meal.
“Hopefully it will be a platform where other people and other artists can come that otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to come to Chicago and have a place to work, have a place to show,” Fret says. “I want to try to cultivate that culture.”
Fret, who grew up in Wicker Park just a block away from the Home Away From Home space, says the neighborhood’s DIY scene along Milwaukee Avenue “was so influential” to his coming of age. He’s also aware of how much the neighborhood’s landscape has changed since then—but with Home Away From Home, he’s hoping to revive some of that old DIY spirit.
“It made me who I am today, and I miss it. There was always a show—an art show, or a poetry reading. There was so much culture going on,” Fret says. “I’m really hoping that maybe I can bring a little bit of that energy back to the neighborhood.”
“Making Friends With Hungry Ghosts” will open Friday, December 10 at Home Away From Home (1141 N Damen Ave); hours are Fridays 6–10pm, Saturdays noon–10pm and Sundays noon–6pm, as well as by appointment. Take a sneak peek at the new space below.