Getting your Evanston news from Facebook? Try the Evanston RoundTable’s free daily and weekend email newsletters – sign up now!

The two Persephone figures in the former optician’s window in the 1600 block of Orrington Avenue are part of a new frame of reference for vacant storefronts in downtown Evanston: Together with photographs, paintings, ceramics and glass works – all created by local artists – they are the inaugural showcase for “Art Under Glass,” collaboration between the arts and business communities.

Penny Rotheiser, chair of the Arts and Business Committee of the Evanston Arts Council, said the idea of filling the vacant windows with local artwork came from committee member Stamata Blanas. The project was a joint effort of that committee and Evmark, the organization that markets downtown Evanston.

The site for this project is the 708 Church St. building, the site of a proposed 38-story mixed-use residential tower. Jim Nash of Farnsworth-Hill, the property manager for the building, helped facilitate the project as well.

The artists – Carlo Lo Cascio, David Gista, Lisa Harris and Judy Koon from the Evanston Art Center; Wren Campbell, Ted Harris and Erin Mooney from Open Studio Project; and Lena Freireich and Doniece Malia-Wall – were selected from the Evanston Art Center, the Open Studio Project and at large, said Ms. Rotheiser.

The weather gave artists and onlookers a break on June 17 for the unveiling of the project, as the individual artists described their work to the crowd of about 70 people inching along from storefront to storefront east on Church Street and south on Orrington Avenue.

“It’s a great way to showcase the richness of art we have in town,” Ms. Rotheiser said. She said she hopes the new life on the street will help attract businesses to downtown Evanston.

Jill Brazel, president of the Evanston Arts Council, became the de facto project manager, said Ms. Rotheiser, sweeping floors and making the storefronts hospitable once again.

It was a “great process,” Ms. Brazel said, adding, “When the Evanston Art Center people put in the Youth Fine Arts pieces – the chairs and the dragon – all of a sudden I felt, ‘This is for real.’ Then Doneice’s [Ms. Malia-Wall] flowers just brightened up the whole street.”

Carolyn Dellutri, executive director of Evmark, said, “This project will enrich the experience of residents and visitors alike, and expose everyone to the great talent in our midst.”

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said she had walked around the area before the event began. “Businesses told me everything that was going wrong,” she said. “But they said one thing is going right, and that’s art in the windows.”

James Klutznick, whose development company is to construct a mixed-use high rise there, told the RoundTable he thought the Art Under Glass project was “a very smart idea. Any program that allies the arts community with the business community is good.”

Paul Giddings, a member of the Arts and Business Committee, said the art “changes the whole dynamic” of the area. “Our goal is to get everyone working together.”

Artists wishing to have their work considered for Art Under Glass may contact Ms. Brazel at jill@jillbrazel.com.

For a video of the inauguration of Art Under Glass, return to the homepage.