At Evanston Made’s First Saturday Art Events this weekend, attendees got the chance to enjoy artwork at local businesses, venues, galleries, bars and restaurants.
Evanston Made is an organization seeking to help Evanston artists in a variety of ways, from helping them grow in their profession to connecting them with potential patrons.
With the First Saturday events, Evanston Made’s Executive Director Lisa Degliantoni recognized that getting folks out of the house and away from Netflix was her first challenge. Then it was about getting them to stick around.
“People don’t like to hang out” for too long, Degliantoni said. “They like to go in, get some bad wine, have a piece of cheese, look at art, bounce and go to several, right?”
Her solution to the problem was to invent First Saturday, where Evanstonians can hop from an afternoon drawing class at Sketchbook Brewery to evening gallery openings at The Village Farm Stand. The events were inspired by Chicago’s First Friday.
“We said to anybody in the art world, whether you’re a gallery, whether you’re a coffee shop with art: Be open,” she said. “Host an event if you want or a drink sale or an artist’s talk, and we’ll put you on a little map.”
While First Saturday started small, the events on Sept. 3 were spread across 12 Evanston locations, thanks to their members and partners like Main-Dempster Mile.
“Main-Dempster Mile has been a great partner ” and “an economic driver for Evanston,” proving “you can have a fabulous art collection with all Evanston artists,” said Liz Cramer, co-director of Evanston Made.
At Wine Goddess, on 702 Main St. in South Evanston, Ben Blount’s print work stood among the business’s wine bottles.
Blount is a Detroit-born artist who’s a “believer in the power of the printed word” whose work “often explores questions of race and identity and the stories we tell ourselves about living in America.”
One print read “I love you like paper loves ink” in a shade of red evocative of wine. Another read in a bright yellow and orange gradient, “Black don’t crack, Asian don’t raisin and Brown don’t frown,” in all-caps and underscored by tiny script reading, “Everybody Loves The Sunshine.”
At Trapdoor’s studio at 1303 Chicago Ave., Micah Sweezie showcased Parting Lines. The collection juxtaposed ceramics, found objects and a reel of TikTok videos. Sweezie’s mother is Vietnamese, and Sweezie, who goes by the pronouns they/them, spent several years growing up in Vietnam before moving back to the states.
When it comes to ceramics, Sweezie said there is something profound and “mind-boggling” about engaging with materials sourced directly from the Earth that, after intense firings, take a form that can last forever.
One of Sweezie’s favorite objects in Parting Lines was a deflated and wrapped-up bicycle tire.
For Sweezie, these are the moments that spark curiosity and give insight into the care that went into the objects’ original creation. When asked what it means to present a show that investigates politics and making processes in a progressive city like Evanston, they said they hope the show can bring audiences to “question discomfort” and people’s “histories and relationships to an object.”
Sweezie said Trapdoor curator Ava Decapri encouraged Sweezie to take “free reign to go off.”
Decapri is also an Evanston Made ceramicist who joined after connecting with Degliantoni. While the budget and the space are minimal, Sweezie and Decapri made the most of it.
Decapri prioritizes up-and-coming artists, considering how hard it can be to get a solo show early in a career.
A perfect final stop on the First Saturday tour was at Evanston Pour, where Russell Muit’s Storm Print City is on display for the next month. The collection of relief prints sourced from manhole covers and “antique, ornate, and symbolic pieces of iron in the street” colored all of the business’s walls.
Muit finds inspiration for his prints across the world, from Arkansas and the Jersey Shore to Europe and The Philippines. Bartender Maggie Meyer said Muit “comes in once a week” and supports the business.
Meyer also said that while all the art that comes into Evanston Pour is great, she especially appreciates how Muit’s bright designs light up the space.
Degliantoni says she wants “murals on every wall, and “art at every coffee shop and dentist office,” but she doesn’t “want it to be from Target.”
What she does want is local businesses spotlighting local artists. Yesterday’s First Saturday completed exactly that mission while forging new opportunities and relationships in the Evanston’s arts community.