Artist Larry Geni discusses his artwork on opening night at Gallery, Now! Photo by Maya Kosover

Just as Northwestern graduates popped off their hats, local Evanston artists popped out of their studios and into the public. “Gallery, Now!” opened on June 14 with a live band and food. The gala attracted nearly 450 people to the vacant space that once housed the Borders bookstore in downtown Evanston.

“The opening was even better than expected,” lead organizer Mark Collins said. “Lots of energy, music, food – very festive. Many people told us that they were happy to see this kind of event in Evanston,” he added.

Despite the anticipated competition with the Custer Street Fair, these pop-up artists drew an impressive crowd.

“Many people were just wandering in from seeing the signs,” mixed-media artist Heather Hancock said. “[There were] so many comments about hoping it’s a new permanent exhibition space.”

The idea for the gallery arose about six weeks ago, Mr. Collins said, as he thought of ways for Evanston and nearby artists to share a “short burst of creativity.” He called a few artists and curators that he knew and found six others who were interested in the venture.

“It’s been sort of a wild ride,” Mr. Collins said. “It’s been interesting to see the various factors that go into planning an event like this.”

Elements such as calling different landlords, sorting out insurance and legal issues, getting artists who had finished artwork and would be willing to supervise the space, organizing food and a band, and ultimately, marketing the event through flyers and social media were all part of the process.

Ms. Hancock agreed that there were many factors to take into account and said the “publicity part” was certainly
the most challenging.

Mr. Collins said finding the right location was one of the most important organizational moves.

“We wanted to set a location central to downtown Evanston to capture the excitement of Northwestern families for graduation and just that early summer buzz,” he said.

Amanda Bryant, owner and curator of HangItUp Chicago, brought in a variety of work from 20 different Chicago artists.

“The company supports Chicago businesses and artists only to get more exposure to their work,” Ms. Bryant said. “[The pieces] bring that Chicago pride we all have and support our Chicago art community.”

For now, the group of artists has no plans for future pop-up galleries.

“That’s part of the definition of a pop-up art gallery—to be quick and spontaneous,” Ms. Hancock said. “We could never exactly replicate this.”

“That’s part of the excitement and curiosity for us artists,” Mr. Collins said. “This is a great chance to showcase Evanston artists, to offer art to the community, to provide a cultural family event, all in one shot. If it goes well, we’ll have done it once and it’ll be easier to organize for next time.”

The gallery, 1700 Maple Ave., runs until June 25 and is open noon -10 p.m. daily.