Opening a woman-themed store was in the cards

? Looking for Harrison Street, finding She Art Chicago's east South Boulevard space was kismet.

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By DREW CARTER

Candy Johnson was at a career crossroads. She'd tired of the sign-painting business she and her partner, Mercedes Corona, had run for 18 years, and a recent degree in teaching art at an elementary school wasn't her thing either.

Her thing, from the time she was 3, was collecting treasures. Now she and Corona have their own treasures?#34;eclectic pieces mostly featuring the nude female form. She thought about an eBay online store. But fate had something else in store.

Johnson visited Apex Learning Center, 7518 W. Madison St. in Forest Park, which offers alternative healing and psychic readings. Her answer in the cards: she needed to open an art shop where she could feature artists, sell her treasures, and teach art.

En route to Oak Park's Harrison Street Arts District?#34;the place to put a shop such as she envisioned?#34;she got lost. And then she found a For Rent sign at 223 South Blvd., now home to She Art Chicago as of June 1.

Johnson backed off her original nudes concept for the store going instead with eclectic woman-themed art.

"I don't want anybody to be offended," she said.

Collected treasures?#34;mostly woman-related and many depicting nude women?#34;from eras past sit alongside commissioned pieces, and everything but the stereo and coffee pot are for sale. She said she'll keep nudes out of the windows.

The store also offers artist-made jewelry, and a space where patrons can make their own.

Every month She Art Chicago will feature a different local artist (Johnson would consider anyone from Wisconsin to Michigan, but so far has found plenty of artists who are much more local than that) in the rear portion of the 550-square-foot space.

Artists also have to be "emerging," or relatively new to showing their pieces. Three of her scheduled featured artists, including this month's, have never shown their work before in a gallery.

"I'm not talking about people who've been showing for years," Johnson said.

The work is done by men and women, but all is woman-themed.

Johnson looks for found art, outsider art or urban art?#34;"anything unique and different." She's particularly interested in "urban art."

"It's brand new?#34;no one even knows the definition yet," she said, adding that different artists have their own interpretations of what urban art means.

Johnson said she'll feature few painters or artists who work in simple media.

"I want somebody who really goes beyond that," she said.

Both Johnson and Corona?#34;together 10 years in October?#34;offer pieces of their own in She Art. Johnson is a metal smith and Corona works in stained glass. Johnson said the Galewood couple don't have many pieces right now, as they've offered their pieces at charity auctions through the years to keep the house uncluttered.

In the fall she plans to offer art classes for fathers and their kids, with the emphasis being on communication through art.

More information on the store is at www.sheartchicago.com.CONTACT: dcarter@wjinc.com

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