Anonymous graffiti artist The Guy Who Cares is gaining some local street-art colleagues – Chicago-based Studio W.I.P., a spray-paint workshop studio, has opened an Evanston location at 526 Kedzie St.
Studio W.I.P., co-founded by Adam Dittman and Max Unterhaslberger, offers guests a unique painting experience but instead of the usual watercolor or acrylic paint, spray paint is the chosen medium for workshops.
After the police killing of George Floyd in 2020, many businesses in the Chicago area boarded up because of protests. In his neighborhood of West Humboldt Park, Dittman reached out to local businesses to ask if he and other artists could paint on the wood panels to create a more welcoming environment.
“It’s all about dismantling what it means to spray-paint,” Dittman said. “It has such a negative connotation, but it is a great medium to work with.”
Dittman and Unterhaslberger opened their first location of Studio W.I.P. in West Humboldt Park and began offering workshops. After thousands of guests came through and the studio went viral on TikTok, expanding was the natural next step, Dittman said.
In 1992, the Chicago City Council banned the sale of spray paint in a 38-1 vote. The single negative vote came from then-Ald. Dorothy Tillman, who was worried about the rights of people of color under anti-crime legislation.
Fast-forward a few decades and the sale of spray paint is still banned in Chicago. Getting caught with a can of spray paint there can result in a hefty fine.
“Spray paint is criminalized and [that] has put a lot of people in compromising positions when they’re just trying to express themselves,” Dittman said.
Evanston city code prohibits the sale of spray paint to minors, but not adults. So unlike its store in Chicago, the Studio W.I.P. location in Evanston will also be part-retail and sell volatile organic compound-free, acrylic-based spray paint, offering financial flexibility to the studio, Dittman said.
At the Evanston studio groups of two to 10 people can enroll in “COVID bubble workshops” Saturdays and Sundays. Dittman said he hopesto expand the studio’s hours to Wednesdays through Sundays and allow for retail shopping.
The workshops are called “Spray Paint ‘n’ Sip,” but Dittman said the emphasis is on the spray paint. Unlike some other paint-and-sip workshops, Studio W.I.P. permits drinks to be brought in but they are not provided.
“It is a creative way to disrupt the paint-and-sip situation,” Dittman said. “It is a challenge, because not everyone is creating a starry night or a landscape. We give you skills and you build on top of them and once you master it you can start experimenting.”
Guests can sign up for workshops, intended for private groups of two to 10 people, online. The minimum age to participate is 10 years old.