Saturday, August 28, 2010

OP-SHOP II (Hyde Park)

The (OP)portunity Shop: The Coolest Place in Town

There is no getting around it: the Opportunity (or "OP") Shop in Hyde Park is clearly the coolest place in town. I say this really without reservation, because it has become one of the true gathering places for the Hyde Park (Chicago) community, which fosters partnerships, discussions, and general community-building through a variety of artistic, musical, and health related expressions (e.g. art shows, concerts, workshops on yoga and the art of motion). The op shop has an interesting history and other information can be found online at its website ( and ( According to the site, its founder--a neighbor of mine about a block away--is Laura Schaeffer, who is a local curator and artist. For some time she has hosted art openings and events in her own home, which have been highly successful.

Schaeffer has done tremendous work in this neighborhood to build community arts projects, especially through this new venue. The first OP shop opened last year, I believe in December of 2009 and ran for about a month in an empty space on 55th Street, just west of Cornell, on the south side of the street between an eyeglass shop and some restaurants. It was a magnificent space, which she transformed beautifully. This was "OP shop 1." The second iteration, "OP shop 2" was opened in the old Hollywood Video store, located on the corner of 53rd Street and just 100 feet west of Lake Park, next to a parking lot. This was a magnificent incarnation of the space and the OP shop venue, and this is what I am displaying for you all today. These photos were taken during its also short OP shop life--I believe OP shop 2 ran for about two months from March or April to May 2010. It included booths for antiques, a herbarium/plant shop, a number of artist spaces, community dinner space, art project work spaces, a pile of compost which was sold by the bag, and of course many books! But there was much more...including a children's fort made out of cardboard boxes!

As you can see from some of these photos, there are books and so many other things of note, including an old leather harness for a horse! The OP shop runs primarily on donations and the largesse of the greater community, so it is important that those who appreciate such endeavors promote it and support it. We found the OP shop space simply wonderful, and often a good alternative space for enjoying a quiet Sunday afternoon where we could bring the kids and have them play, be entertained, and just do something different. Especially when it was cold!

Above, the famous (or infamous?) compost heap. See the shovel at left! And below, one of the exhibits of artists at the OP shop.

Cute kid enjoying art above. And old VHS boxes below, containing not VHS tapes, but books! I thought this a novel approach to displaying books.

Above, some more artists painting. Adjacent to this, there was an "Oral History" desk, which was attempting to document the history of this building, before it would ultimately be torn down.
Below, the fort in the background, as well as the work tables, and some books on a table up front.

Fort. Great Fort! Below, an old newspaper, Harpers Weekly, from 1859.

Signs above, made of cardboard. And below, a decorative entrance made of magnetic tape!

The "OP entrance" above, inside. And some more books...

I must say that places like the OP shop are great additions to communities around the country. Open indoor spaces, which afford community building are increasingly rare, especially when you have budget cuts or it costs too much to rent spaces for the general populace. On the other hand, there must be some interest generated in the community for such places to work. I do hope that the OP shop venues continue...not just to exist, but to flourish. And if there are books there, that will be fine too.

[Roll 1294]


  1. Very interesting. Thanks for the info on the OP shop and the great photos.

  2. When's the next posting, Anthony?